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Teen Love--400 Years Later

March 11, 1993|ANNE KLARNER

William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," as produced this weekend in Glendale by A Noise Within, "should have the same effect as a Steven Spielberg film, with the sword fights and the dancing," said Art Manke, the play's director.

Could he actually be talking about a play that's 400 years old? That's based on an even older story? That has become a metaphor for doomed romance between members of feuding families? Whose best-known scene, on that notable balcony, has become the mother of all cliches?

"Everybody comes to it with preconceived ideas," Manke said. "People come to this play because they read it in high school."

But because he is "fighting the cliche," Manke and his cast spent the first 10 days of rehearsal just studying the text "really trying to understand it. We're trying to look at it as a living thing."

What the members of A Noise Within--Glendale's own resident classical theater company--came up with is a production that reflects the adolescent nature of its two main characters.

"I think the most important line (in terms of the theme) is the friar's: 'They stumble that run fast,' " said Manke, who is also the group's co-artistic director.

The characters, Manke said, act on their passions without thinking.

"They're going, going, going," he said. "When fate brings them together, it's a downward spiral."

Manke added that the line from the prologue describing the play as "the two hours traffic of our stage" is "a clue to us that it has to go fast."

As for the scene, the director said, "Most people don't know what it means."

The common misconception is that when Juliet asks "Wherefore art thou Romeo?" she is asking where her adored is, when she is actually pondering why he is one of the hated Montagues.

Previews are tonight and Friday at the Masonic Temple, 234 S. Brand Blvd. Tickets are $10.

Saturday is the gala opening night with a special ticket price of $20, which includes a reception after the performance.

Regular performances will alternate in repertory, Thursday through Sunday, with Thornton Wilder's "Our Town," opening next week, and George Bernard Shaw's "Man and Superman," opening April 10.

Curtain times are 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday until April 17, when Saturday show times will change to 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. and Sunday times to 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The season runs through May 15. For reservations: (818) 546-1924.

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