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On Theater: ‘Romeo and Juliet’ updated (again)

Danielle Canas (Juliet) and Mahmoud Elshakawy (Romeo) star in "Romeo and Juliet" at Golden West College.
(Handout)

Modernizing Shakespeare is nothing new — directors have been doing it forever. Scissoring the script so the play checks in at under two hours and scrapping the intermission, that’s a new — and quite welcome — practice.

Martie Ramm, who directs “Romeo and Juliet” at Golden West College, has employed this tactic to full advantage. Her Montagues and Capulets bicker and brawl while their teenagers fall in love at an accelerated pace and hurtle headlong toward their destiny — which, though everyone knows it’s coming, still remains somewhat of a shock.

Shakespeare’s text, as always, is retained verbatim, save for the time-saving cuts. The tragedy is set in 2014, presumably in Verona, Italy, and its characters communicate with cellphones. Ramm keeps the show humming along against Kristin Campbell’s imposing setting and rear-screen projections.

The title characters are quite well represented. Mahmoud Elsharkawy is splendid, taking a leading role in his stage debut. His Romeo is an animated and lovestruck figure, solidly interpreted and blessed with dynamic energy.

Even more impressive, however, is Danielle Canas as Juliet. Her shimmering, sensuous beauty is enforced by a highly skilled interpretative ability that electrifies her performance. She should enjoy a lustrous stage career.

Also quite powerful is Van Hudson as Juliet’s domineering father, a stark contrast to Romeo’s more docile dad (Connor Tribole). Saffron Brauer simmers with restrained venom as Juliet’s mother, while Steven Nikolic earnestly interprets her suitor, Paris.

Jay Harbison reflects sympathetic sagacity as Friar Lawrence. Matthew Villescas struts and poses as Romeo’s buddy Mercutio, while Daniel Sanchez is a grim, vindictive Tybalt. Haley Brown plays Juliet’s surprisingly young nurse with a knowing grin, and Jaime Hensgen properly commands the stage as the princess of Verona.

Campbell’s set design, simple but effective, accommodates the varying locations splendidly. The lighting plot, by Crystal Shomph, is eerily convincing, and Rachael Lorenzetti’s costumes fit neatly into the 2014 time period.

“Romeo and Juliet” is among the best known of Shakespeare’s tragedies, and this cutting-to-the-chase production brings this classic into the 21st century at Golden West College.

TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Daily Pilot.

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IF YOU GO

What: “Romeo and Juliet”

Where: Golden West College, Huntington Beach

When: Closing performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday

Cost: $14 to $16

Information: (714) 895-8150 or https://www.gwctheater.com


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