By Bonnie Goldberg

Under a full moon, when young romance should be protected and nurtured, the enmity of two feuding families causes tears and troubles for a pair of innocent lovers. Enter the ancient land of Verona, Italy, at the invitation of William Shakespeare, to witness how Romeo of the house of Montagues meets and falls under the spell of the bewitching Juliet of the house of the Capulets.


Connecticut Free Shakespeare has set up a perfect place for your viewing pleasure, outdoors under a star-crossed sky, at three unique venues at 8 p.m.: CT's BEARDSLEY ZOO, Peacock Pavilion, Wednesday to Sunday July 18-22 -- for the 13th year -- peacocks are still making their presence known. McLEVY GREEN, Wednesday to Sunday, July 25-29 -- Downtown Bridgeport is undergoing a revival. There are now many, many evening and weekend music and art events. Mayor Finch believes classical theater belongs there, too and invited CFS to perform. FESTIVAL! STRATFORD on the grounds of The American Shakespeare Festival Theater -- Wednesday to Sunday, August 1-5. -- Volunteers are working hard to open the theater again. Performances by CFS will help keep their dream alive. There will be a photo exhibition on display with historical theater images.


In Stratford, Paul Newman, Christopher Plummer, Maureen Stapleton and Bob Dylan appear in a series of iconic images captured by photographer Jayson Byrd of Westport to be exhibited in the lobby of Stratford’s American Shakespeare Festival Theatre. You can bring your own picnic, blanket and lawn chair.


Byrd’s black-and-white studies trace the vibrant texture of the stage and song in Fairfield County in the 1980s and 1990s, showcasing his work as the official photographer of extensive list of theaters like the Shakespeare in Stratford, Westport Country Playhouse, Darien Dinner Theater, Boston Post Road Stage Company, Polka Dot Playhouse, Stamford Theatre Works and Music Theatre of Connecticut. Live jazz and music on the lawn, plus yoga and zumba, enhance the production in Stratford. Additional information is available at www.festivalstratford.org or Festival Stratford on Facebook.


A charming Romeo, played by an eager Mark Friedlander, fancies himself enamored by Rosalind but when he accidentally spies Juliet, a sweet Erin Scanlon, at a masquerade ball he should not even be attending, his heart is well and truly lost to the lovely innocent teenage girl.


Aided by Juliet’s accommodating and caring nurse (Liliane Klein), the pair steal away to Friar Laurence (Jamil Mangan) where they are secretly wed. A chance encounter between the rivals, Mercutio (Eric Nyquist), Romeo’s best friend, and Tybalt (Stephen Humes), Juliet’s cousin, leads to a sword fight where Tybalt slays Mercurio and, in the ensuing struggle, falls on Romeo’s sword.


When Romeo is banished and exiled to Mantua, the newly married couple are quickly parted. Juliet’s parents (Jonathan Holtzman and Virginia Bartholomew), renew their pressure for Juliet to marry the quite eligible suitor Paris (Tom Evans), not knowing she has already pledged her heart to another.


A lost letter and vials of poison bring renewed tragedy that finally leads the Capulets to abandon their feud with the Montagues (Jerrial Young and Lila Smith). A chastised Benvolio (Ian Eaton) explains the tragic turn of fate.


Kudos to Ellen Lieberman for adapting and directing this magical production on a bold set designed by Lynne Porter, with an array of costumes created by Solveig Pflueger and Chris Mallardi and mood lighting by Sebastian Paczynski.


Musical director and choreographer Eric Nyquist is responsible for leading a most entertaining intermission that has half the audience of children and parents dancing and singing on stage. A Greek chorus of peacocks also lend their voices to the festivities. Donations to help offset the costs of production are most welcome.


Come outdoors and relax under the stars for this classic Shakespeare tale where “never was a story of more woe than Juliet and her Romeo.”


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