Romeo and Juliet

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Through Aug. 12 at various Bay Area locations. There is no cost for admission. For information call 510-420-0813, or visit www.womanswill.org.

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Woman's Will, the Bay Area's all-female Shakespeare company, performs its shows at parks throughout the Bay Area in order to make its work more accessible. At a recent performance in Oakland's Dimond Park, most audience members sat on blankets, many with small children; a few passersby stopped to watch. At one point, a bearded homeless guy even rode across the stage on a bicycle. Despite the relaxed outdoor atmosphere, the actors and director displayed a finely tuned understanding of the text that Shakespeare enthusiasts will appreciate. Marilet Martinez is an impassioned and fiery Romeo and has great contrast to Cassie Powell's sweetheart of a Juliet. Sharon Huff, meanwhile, plays Capulet with a Tony Soprano-esque control over his family. Director Erin Merritt brings a ritualistic beauty to the end of the show, using a gong-like sound and unspoken montage to represent the scenes from Juliet's ingestion of the false poison to Paris' entrance to the tomb. In the face of the enduring relevance of Shakespeare's canon, the dearth of truly great women's roles is stifling for the overwhelmingly female acting world. Woman's Will bravely takes Elizabethan tradition and flips it inside out. But, hey, the Bard is into cross-dressing characters; and this production proves that girls can do it just as well with pants and a swagger as Will and Co. did with wigs and falsetto.

 
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