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‘Romeo and Juliet’ is more than a love story

The McNary High School Theatre Arts Department present “William Shakespeare’s Romeo and  Juliet” tonight and tomorrow (Friday and Saturday, April 30 and May 1) and Thursday through Saturday, May 6-8, in the Ken Collins Theatre on campus.

Curtain time is at 7 p.m. each evening. Tickets are $5.

Juliet (Ashlie K. Gonzalez) and Romeo (Nicholas McDonald) embrace during Monday’s dress rehearsal.

The campus is located at 595 Chemawa Road N.  Call 503-399-3233 for more information.

McNary presents a fully-staged Shakespeare each year, and has done so since 1998. “Romeo and Juliet” is the first repeat show among that list of 13.

McNary first staged it in 2001.

Theatre teacher Linda Baker says “we decided to repeat a Shakespeare since there are a limited number of plays in the canon suitable for local performance. And our students were rather constantly asking to do Romeo and Juliet again.  In many ways, it is a natural for a high school presentation.”

Director Dan Hays, who has directed all the McNary Shakespeare’s, says the approach to the current production is “quite different.  It is, in fact, subtitled ‘A Tale of Old Earth.’ Our premise is that you are watching a production of the play as staged by people who are descendents of colonists from Earth.  They live on a planet on the other side of the galaxy, and have recently re-discovered the play after 6,000 years.”

Hays insists that “A Tale of Old Earth” isn’t a gimmick as such.

“It actually allowed us to free the play from expectations of Renaissance dress and West Side Story and Leonardo DiCaprio and refocus it on its primary meanings. It is, after all, both a tragic love story and an exploration of the consequences of human violence.”

The cast represents a cross section of experienced actors and players new to the McNary stage.

The title roles are played by Nicholas McDonald and Ashlie K. Gonzales. Both were recently seen together in McNary’s “The Haunting of Hill House,” and both were in last season’s Shakespeare, “The Taming of the Shrew.”

Mercutio is played by Earl Wiskow, with Jordan Reid as Tybalt and Laynie McCartney as The Abbess (Father Laurence in the original script).  Hannah Alice Patterson appears as the Nurse.

There are a total of 40 performers in the on-stage company.

“‘Romeo and  Juliet’ deserves its standing as a classic in literature,” Baker said.  “That is because it is exciting, surprisingly comic, and deeply moving.

“It is the perfect example of Shakespeare’s ability to put living, breathing characters on the stage and allow them to move the audience to laughter and tears.”