Romeo and Juliet, the classic Shakespearean tragedy, comes to life as part of the Hollywood Shakespeare Festival. Two banners flank the stage designed with family crests -- one bearing the name Capulet, the other Montague. The rest of the staging is simple and practical, a series of three wooden arches, the largest with a balcony on top. Period costume creates the mood. The actors do well translating the Bard's flowery language, revealing the innuendo, pun, and poetry of the text. Odell A. Rivas, as Benvolio, seems comfortable with his character as he buddies with Romeo (Adam Simpson) and Mercutio (David J. Hernandez). Hernandez skillfully plays the jester, mocking everything, including Tybalt Capulet (Eric Lavoie), whom he engages in his last battle. This bit of swordplay is the best scene for Lavoie, who adds little to his character. Juliet (Carrie Santana) glows atop her balcony, making the stars and moon she mentions come alive with her shining eyes, and Simpson returns love with full splendor. He nails each scene, showing love and grief authentically. His death scene seems excruciatingly real. Sheila Allen, as the nurse, serves as comic relief. Joanne Marsic as Lady Montague is poised and teasing at the mention of her daughter's marriage. Scott Wells and Shaun Marie Levin play several roles, making the best of their scenes. (Through February 13 at Hollywood Boulevard Playhouse, 2640 Washington St., Hollywood, 954-922-0404.)
Enchanted April lives up to its name, with enticing characters and an engaging plot. Lotty Wilton (Cary Anne Spear) finds herself dissatisfied with her tyrannical husband and her humdrum existence. She finds escape through an ad in the paper -- a rentable castle in Italy. Her heart aflame with possibility, she ropes a reluctant fellow churchgoer, Rose (Laura Turnbull), into the vacation scheme. Needing two others to help pay the bills, Lotty and Rose entice the lonely and beautiful modern girl, Lady Caroline (Annie Reilly), and a rigid, gray-haired drill sergeant of a woman named Mrs. Graves (Pat Nesbit). Spear is priceless, turning from a flighty victim to a natural and exuberant group leader. Turnbull evolves from a repressed wife into a blooming young woman ready to accept love. Reilly and Nesbit play character roles, but both show growth, especially Nesbit, who skillfully employs body language, speech, and a tight-lipped smile to unveil Mrs. Graves' more vulnerable side. (Through February 13 at Caldwell Theater, 7873 N. Federal Hwy., Boca Raton, 561-241-7380.)
Edge is a one-woman show about the tormented life of poet Sylvia Plath. It features a startling, riveting performance by Angelica Torn that blazes as fiercely as Plath's poetry. Paul Alexander's play depicts Plath's failed romances and suicide attempts, and it excoriates her husband, Ted Hughes, as a controlling monster who profited mightily from her royalties after her death. Despite these fireworks and a welcome dose of wry humor, this tale of rage and obsession feels rather flat dramatically. Edge works best as a performance showcase for the splendid Torn. (Through March 27 at the Coconut Grove Playhouse, 3500 Main Hwy., Coconut Grove, 305-442-4000.)
The Sounds of Simon casts light on master songsmith Paul Simon's poignant words. Five players on a darkened stage make Simon's music come alive through a mix of defiance and stillness. Songs like "I Am a Rock," "Hazy Shade of Winter," and "American Tune" show frustration at the world's condition. "You Can Call Me Al," "Loves Me Like a Rock," and "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" are lighthearted; the cast joins in loosely structured choreography with do-si-dos and Latino grooves. But the silent moments are brilliant. Pieces of "The Sound of Silence" are appropriately sung throughout, begging the audience to ponder. Eeriness encompasses the set; gentle fog rolls over sloped hills on an Astroturfed stage. A few benches sit solemnly like gravestones, and a chainlink fence serves as a barrier to a painted sky. This is holy ground, and the performers sing like angels. (Through February 20 at Atlantis Playhouse, 5893 S. Congress Ave., Atlantis, 561-304-3212.)
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