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Originally published Friday, June 22, 2012 at 5:30 AM

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A bare-bones, energetic 'Romeo and Juliet' on Seattle's waterfront

A review from the first weekend of Arts on the Waterfront's free performances of "Romeo and Juliet." The performances continue June 22-24, 30, and July 1, 2012, and include dancing to live bands after the show is over.

Seattle Times theater critic

Performance review

'Romeo and Juliet'

7 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday; also June 30 and July 1, Waterfront Park, 1300 Alaskan Way, Seattle; free.
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Another "event" that is really a rock concert...not enough that we have to... MORE

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You could say "Romeo and Juliet" is about a pair of crazy, fired-up kids in love. And you could say the new, free mini-production of the play at Seattle's Waterfront Park is the work of a pair of crazy, mixed-up kids in love with theater.

This feisty first effort by the Arts on the Waterfront group is bare-bones. Actor-producers Mickey Rowe and Laurie Roberts perform Shakespeare's tragedy in a corner of the boardwalk with an expansive Elliott Bay view. At each performance they set up a couple dozen chairs and an ad hoc art exhibit, and after the show they invite you to stay and dance to a live rock band.

With a little budget and a lot of moxie, they brave traffic noise, the whoosh of a nearby fountain and a constant flow of passers-by to put across their version of the classic.

And, yes, you can transmit the essence of a romantic tragedy with modest means but a lot of creative exuberance and some humble props. A pair of tall ladders serve as a balcony and more. Sword duels are fought with water balloons. A frowzy wig defines Juliet's nurse. And the music of cellist Brandon Smith sets the scene nicely.

The two-member cast, quick-change style, plays all the major characters, switching genders and roles as they tear around the staging area and barely pause for breath.

Forget subtlety: The actors shout to be heard (Rowe more effectively than Roberts) and resort to elemental pantomime to get across a condensed, hourlong version of the Bard's text.

But there's a punky esprit here that carries the day, recalling the great Shakespeare director Peter Brook's notion of a "rough" theater that may be rugged and no-frills but is unmistakably alive.

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