Naked Shakes’ Romeo and Juliet production at UCSB. | Credit: UC Santa Barbara Theater and Dance

Romeo and Juliet is a tale so widely known that it’s no spoiler to say this play is about two teenage lovers who take their own lives at the prospect of separation. Culturally, that’s what it’s been boiled down to, but there’s certainly more to it than that, as illustrated by the Naked Shakes production at UCSB, directed by Irwin Appel. It’s a story of violence and passion, with a fair amount of levity, and characters operating in the extremes of human emotion. The id has run wild in Verona and characters hate each other and love each other in a manner most intense.

The Capulets and the Montagues are warring families so at odds they can barely be in the same room without a brawl breaking out. Teenage daughter Juliet (of family Capulet) and young Romeo (of family Montague) meet at a party and fall instantly, wildly in love. Trouble ensues. It’s a fun presentation from Naked Shakes, whose company style is marked by stripped-down productions with the minimum of theatrical frippery to train the focus on the words and associated action of the play. The result, in this case, is a punchy rendition of the classic with an air of stylish street grunge that features some noteworthy performances. Romeo (Nicholas Enea) channels deep, heartthrob energy, and Juliet (Ahlora Smith) exudes a teenage girlishness that reinforces the idea (that some viewers forget) that Juliet is a child — roughly the age of an 8th grader.

It’s a robust showing from Naked Shakes, with athletic staging and exciting fight choreography pushing the momentum of this whirlwind story. Last week’s brief summer run will reopen September 23 and play through October 1 at the UCSB Studio Theater. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

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