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Actors' Theatre of Columbus

Classic play gets dark spin at Columbus Commons

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Daniel Turek as Romeo and Grace Bolander as Juliet in Actors' Theatre of Columbus' production of Romeo and Juliet, to be held at 7:30 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, Sept. 15-22, at Columbus Commons.

Actors' Theatre of Columbus will put a freshly ominous spin on Romeo and Juliet, to be performed Sept. 15-22 at Columbus Commons.

The play, which showcases love and tragedy in a post-apocalyptic world, will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in the Downtown park.

John S. Kuhn, artistic director of the acting troupe, said the dialogue remains largely unchanged, but the stage design and costumes convey a gloomy tone -- more so than usual -- to the Shakespearean classic.

"When we watch it in a world where everything is at risk, something as fragile as love becomes even more precious," Kuhn said.

Director Ross Shirley said the dark scenario makes it "more gutsy and visceral for these characters."

"Culturally speaking, in the entertainment industry for sure, it seems to be a popular bit of imagery right now and I really thought it would be fun to look at it in a different light and make it meaningful for a young audience," he said.

Shirley said the principles of Shakespeare's play -- written in the mid-16th century and set in Verona, Italy -- remain lucid, even with the revised outlook.

"I think if you address Shakespeare at its core, usually what I discover is the stories are rather timeless," he said.

"I've always loved that about Shakespeare," Shirley said.

"Traditional productions can be quite beautiful, and there is a place for that, but I also think there's a lot of fun in exploring different worlds and styles and visual themes with this story."

Grace Bolander, who's playing Juliet for the first time, says the reconstituted setting enhances the drama for the two main characters.

"I think their drastic actions and quick decisions a post-apocalyptic world make a lot more sense," said Bolander, a Dublin resident.

"I think it gives it a lot more justifiable context for them to fall in love so quickly and drastically," she said.

Kuhn said it's been 10 years since Actors' Theatre performed Romeo and Juliet. It seemed to be an appropriate play for the fall when students are back in school and having to read the play for the first time, he said.

"We thought it might have an interest for high school and middle school students in the area to see it acted live and onstage," he said.

"And we thought it would be a complement to the comedies and romances we've done this year."