Watching Romeo and Juliet in the Middle East is all too real.

The hatred and violence that plagued Verona, Italy, where it is set seem far away when watching the play in New York or London.

But here in Israel, it is easier to understand the strife between the Montague and Capulet families that led to the untimely death of Romeo and Juliet.

The TNT Theater Britain collaborated with the America Drama Group-Europe in bringing the play to Israel, where it has already been shown in Zichron Ya’acov, Beersheba, Rehovot, and Tel Aviv.

It will be performed Thursday night at Beit Shmuel in Jerusalem and Saturday night at Yad Labanim in Ra’anana.

Following a supreme performance of the show in Rehovot Tuesday night, director Paul Stebbings reflected on performing the show here by saying that “the play is about overcoming violence.”

He said he hoped the message has resonance in this region but “Shakespeare applies wherever you are.”

Stebbings made a point of ensuring that the first half of the play, before Mercutio’s death, would be as funny as Shakespeare intended, adding comic elements that made the show even more enjoyable than expected. The nurse, played by Ruth Cataroche, in particular repeatedly stole the show with her witticisms.

But certain bawdy elements of the show, and a scene in which Romeo is shirtless, may have to be adapted for a conservative Jerusalem audience.

Stebbings succeeds in creating a performance with a professional flare and international credibility despite having only six actors and very few props. The props are often used smartly to show the passage of time.

The actors bring with them not only the skills and experience they gained performing in London but also a wealth of facial expressions that illustrate their characters’ feelings beyond words. The actress who plays Juliet, Georgie Ashworth, was particularly believable performing Juliet’s roller coaster of emotions, in part because her expressions have such range.

A welcome addition to the play was the fourth dimension of touch being added when the actors went into the crowd. This added to the sights and sounds to improve the experience. Period music is added to the play, enhancing the sense of drama as the tragedy unfolds.

In a memorable line, Mercutio says that “dreams are the children of an idle brain.”

This performance of Romeo and Juliet takes viewers into the world of Verona, realizing dreams on stage in a way that ensures that the brains of the audience members are as stimulated as possible – and anything but idle.

For more info and tickets visit http://israel.adg-europe.com

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