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With serviceable acting in a contemporary setting, Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park's 'Romeo and Juliet' is pretty attractive



Romeo and Juliet
8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday
Through Sept. 4
Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park
Bicentennial Park
500 Couch
$10, $8 students/seniors

Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park has not had a bad season this summer, considering that construction uprooted the company from its nifty Water Stage at the Myriad Botanical Gardens and for a temporary stage in the spartan Bicentennial Park.

City leaders have promised a rebuilt and improved stage by April 2011, and we should hold them to it. Then, they can head across the street and lead efforts in rehabilitating Stage Center. We will be watching.

OSP closes its season with a production of "Romeo and Juliet" that manages to be both attractive and lackluster. It's not that the production suffers great deficits; it's just that the whole is less than the sum of the parts.

Director Kathryn McGill has set the play in what looks like a more-or-less contemporary Verona. Robert A. Pittenridge's modern-dress costumes are in black, white and gray. The "torches" are flashlights, and the "swords" are knives. It works well updated; jets and helicopters flying overhead do not seem so out-of-place.

McGill's staging is uncluttered, keeping the action moving. In line with the modern setting, the scene where Romeo kills Tybalt is more a beating and strangulation than a sword fight. And the audience sees Romeo and Juliet consummate their marriage downstage while Capulet negotiates Juliet's betrothal to Paris behind them upstage. Don't worry: It wouldn't even get a PG rating, and the scene is kind of sweet.

The acting is decent, if largely unremarkable. Jacob Ockwood, a handsome young actor, plays Romeo as a likable, earnest youth completely smitten by Juliet. Tara Wright plays her mostly as a guileless teenager "? in a contemporary setting, it's a credible approach to the role. After all, Juliet is just coming up on her 14th birthday.

Mercutio and the nurse are important supporting characters in "Romeo and Juliet." Caprice Woosley is fine as Juliet's nurse, who is involved, much to her chagrin, in about every aspect of the Romeo/Juliet courtship and union. Kevin Percival's Mercutio seems a bit crazed, which fits, maybe, the setting. Reliable hands Hal Kohlman (Capulet) and Doug Brown (Friar Lawrence) add a mature stability to the mainly youthful cast.

Still, the production does not stick with you for long. But this is a transitional year for OSP, anyway. The new Water Stage with all its amenities "? and nothing less than a first-class venue should be acceptable to us "? will provide OSP with the opportunity to take its work to the next level or two.

With its professional basketball team and whatnot downtown, Oklahoma City wants to be taken seriously. Fine, but no city is "big-league" without top-notch theater. "?Larry Laneer


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