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Romeo and Juliet re-realized in The Verona Project

Susan Coodin and Aslam Husain in The Verona Project, a retelling of Shakepeare's Romeo and Juliet

What better time of year to fall in love with one of the most famous pair of young lovers of all time? Stone’s Throw Production’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, entitled The Verona Project,  runs June 29 to July 2 at the Pacific Theatre. Should you need a date night, or if you need to feel vindicated about the folly of young love, don't miss this production.

 Director Evan Frayne leads an exciting cast – Aslam Husain and Susan Coodin as the fated younguns’, with  Scott Button, Alison Chisholm, Chris Cook, Rhys Finnick, Mack Gordon, Phil Miguel, Maryanne Renzetti, Kaitlin Williams and Troy Anthony Young. Make no mistake though, in this version, rejigged by Frayne and crew, the supporting players get their fair due. “A lot of the characters’  story lines are dropped and I was interested in fleshing out their stories and how they contributed to these kids,” shared  Frayne.

Making it relevant to Vancouver in 2011 was a conceit that Frayne found imperative. “One of the things about the play that resonated with me was the violence. Five people die. “

Frayne explained why the violence spoke to him. “I grew up in a small town, Duncan on Vancouver Island, which is a rough town. I also grew up with stories like Reena Verk (the Saanich teen who was swarmed and killed by a group of teen girls and a boy while others watched in 1997) so violence and its consequences was something I wanted to explore. Nothing much has changed since Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet.”

Frayne, an apprentice at Pacific Theatre, has spent the year working with the company as an opportunity to learn how a theatre company functions. Acting in two of Pacific Theatre’s shows, writing a play with playwright in residence Kathy Parsons, and learning the arts administration world of front of house and box office, is an invaluable experience but his real interest was directing.

“I knew that I could already handle a two hander and so wanted something bigger,” Frayne said. Though he went to a film and tv program in Victoria, his Shakespeare class at UBC Theatre and Film “was a doorway into a new world. It changed my life.”

When discussing options with artistic director of Pacific Theatre  Ron Reed, Romeo and Juliet presented itself and, wanting to cut the play to suit his aesthetic values, meant asking Stephen Drover of Pound of Flesh Theatre, a Vancouver  director well know for abridging Shakespeare,  for advice. “If you’re going to do it, edit it yourself and call it another name,” was the suggestion and so “making the abridged version and playing with it has made it relevant.”

It has been a thrill for him to work with such an excellent cast. “It is an amazing cast, many of whom I know from UBC, and who are on the verge of long and great careers, “enthused Frayne.

The Verona Project runs June 29th-July 2nd, 8pm. Matinee: Saturday, July 2nd at 2pm. Tickets: $11.50 in advance or Pay-What-You-Can at the door. Reservations: Pacific Theatre Box Office: 604.731.5518. Venue: Pacific Theatre 1440 W.12th Avenue.

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