No, it’s not called ‘Juliet and Juliet’ 

Woman’s Will, the Bay Area’s scrappy all-female Shakespeare company, has finally got around to doing "Romeo & Juliet."

Now celebrating its 10th year of free summer shows outdoors, the troupe has tackled lesser-known offerings such as "Coriolanus" and "Pericles" with great success. It has even dabbled with Bertolt Brecht ("Happy End") and Oscar Wilde ("Importance of Being Earnest").

So it’s no surprise that these women, including many new troupe members, would do well going back to basics, as a performance earlier this month in Berkeley’s John Hinckel Park attests. (The show travels to San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Garden this weekend.)

In "Romeo & Juliet," as with most of their shows, "basic" describes the shoestring production values — there’s nothing particularly glitzy about the set, a basic backdrop suggesting a building, with the famous balcony.

Yet the lack of trappings, in a sense, brings out just how skilled the actors are, under direction by Woman’s Will co-founder Erin Merritt.

The players are uniformly good, delivering their lines with clarity and emotion. The dialogue is easily understood, even with all of the distractions an outdoor setting presents.

Marilet Martinez as Romeo and Cassie Powell as Juliet are complemented by superb performances by Carolyn Power as the Nurse, Anne Light as Tybalt, Holly Chou as Benvolio and Scarlett Hepworth as Friar Laurence. Holly Bradford as Lady Capulet and Sharon Huff as Lord Capulet are equally powerful.

Another fine distinction in this "Romeo & Juliet," typical of the attention to detail that characterizes Woman’s Will productions, is the thoughtful costume design. Romeo and Juliet and their young friends wear period dress, as do the oldest people in Verona. Meanwhile, the middle generation sports contemporary attire.

As the director’s program notes point out, the delineation suggests that the parents and the establishment hold responsibility for the bitter, divisive environment that ultimately brings about the young lovers’ tragic endings. It’s an effective device that casts "Romeo & Juliet" in an exciting, new, radical light by presenting the audience with the option of considering, even if only for a moment, that these feisty teenagers could face a peaceful, positive future.

Romeo & Juliet

Presented by Woman’s Will

Where: Yerba Buena Gardens, Mission and Third streets, San Francisco

When: 6 p.m. Friday; 4 p.m. Saturday

Tickets: Free

Contact: www.womanswill.com

Note: Performances continue throughout the summer at other Bay Area parks.

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Leslie Katz

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