PISCATAWAY, NJ—It’s cautionary whenever a theater company or a director says they are going to “contemporize the immortal bard.”

And like the version of Hamlet done at an established professional venue in Princeton some years ago, it usually doesn’t work and is often disastrous.  But there are exceptions and Circle Players’ Romeo and Juliet is one of those exceptions.

Set in a prep school festooned with smart phones and a cast in contemporary garb, this version was truncated just enough in the right places.

Director Erik Hall’s vision maintained the essence of the play and did give some fresh air to this archetypal Renaissance era love story.

Smooth scene changes, believable casting, a humorous party scene and the play’s updated theme added credibility to Mister Hall’s fine interpretation of these young star-crossed lovers from rival houses alike in dignity.

A fine cast, with actors much younger than expected delivered a Romeo and Juliet filled with the right level pathos required in all Shakespearian tragedies.

There were standout performances beginning with Joshua J. Rowland as Romeo.  Rowland gave his role the right amount of youthful intensity with touches of humor and did not overdo it.

Ed Favor’s stagecraft as Lord Capulet was a pleasure to watch, while Kristen Bennett was delightful as young Juliet and had the character arc down pat.

Another notable performance came from Roberto Forero as a hapless and comical Paris.

Hats off to Circle Players, one of the only local venues committed to bringing Shakespeare to its community and does so every season no matter what the risk.

The plays runs till May 10.  Next up at Circle is Defying Gravity.

Reporter at New Brunswick Today