AMERICAN FORK Theatre classics are classics for a reason. Certain plays, including most works penned by William Shakespeare, have gained their reputations from being performed year after year, by company after company. However, that doesn’t mean these hallowed pieces of theatre can’t use a shot in the arm on occasion to inject them with fresh energy. Thankfully, that is just what you will get with Grassroots Shakespeare Company‘s new production of Romeo and Juliet. This small experimental theatre has taken quite possibly Shakespeare’s most popular play and given it new life that anyone, Shakespeare fan or otherwise, will enjoy.

Romeo and Juliet plays through February 24 in two locations.

To appreciate this take on Romeo and Juliet, it is helpful to understand the mission at Grassroots. They are a non-profit theater company that focuses on collaborative productions without a director, production staff, or anything of the sort. Rehearsals are minimal; actors are cast in a gender-blind process and play multiple roles. There is also a live band that accompanies all of the action. They do, however, stick precisely to the Shakespearean prose and don’t update the story or language.

As someone who has seen this particular play many times, it was refreshing to see it done in a new way. Kira Halterman and Annika Webb are very strong as Romeo and Juliet respectively. They have terrific chemistry together. For example, the way they handle the balcony scene with only ladders and a curtain separating them is very clever. Alyxandra Vaughn (who uses the pronouns they/them) was my favorite of the cast as Mercutio and other roles. They have a dynamic stage presence that has the audience both laughing when they’re joking and tearing up when they’re struck down.

As stated previously, the entire play is staged in a small space, and the company tries to involve the audience, occasionally breaking the fourth wall and shouting the dialogue at individual audience members. Kat Webb is good at this, especially while playing Lord Capulet. I would have welcomed further fourth-wall breakages and audience interactions, though I also understand they might be more at home in a comedic production.

A production at Grassroots would be a great way to introduce someone to Shakespeare. They have an educational aspect to their mission which helps the bard feel more approachable and fun for Shakespeare novices.

There were times the musicians overpowered the actors, and I wish they would have stopped so I could stay focused on the story. At times the music was even a little too silly in contrast to the tragic plot of Romeo and Juliet, particularly when the nurse comes into find Juliet ‘dead.’ The audience laughed at what should be a somber scene.

Still, even with these imperfections, the experience at Grassroots was exhilarating. As I watched that group of performers tell one of the most famous stories ever written, it was easy to feel like I was part of a community making something special happen. I highly recommend checking them out either in American Fork or Salt Lake. Be ready for a fresh take on a classic.

 Romeo and Juliet has three showings at 96 N 350 West American Fork (February 14, 16 & 17), and two performances at “The Box” at the Gateway Mall (200 S 400 West, Salt Lake City) on February 23 & 24. All shows include preshow starting at 7pm. Tickets are $15. For more information, visit