The current greatly condensed modern-dress production of Elizabethan dramatist William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (1594-95), presented by Live Wire Theatre Company and Raleigh Parks and Recreation Arts Program in the grassy plaza near the Carousel in Pullen Park, is a promising inaugural effort for Live Wire Theatre Company and its artistic director, Scott Franco.

Much of the cast is young and inexperienced in acting in general and Shakespearean diction in particular, but all the players are game and the entire show only runs about 90 minutes, with no intermission. There are problems with the microphones, and the low multilevel platform on which the play unfolds is not ideally situated for a 6 p.m. curtain time (i.e., the sun sets immediately to its right). So, bring your baseball caps and your lawn chairs as well as your picnic baskets.

Walter Herz Ronceros makes a passionate, if short of stature, Romeo; and Kendall Rileigh makes a dreamy Juliet. Their star-crossed romance loses none of its dramatic power in the bargain.

Triangle theater veteran Phil Crone makes a regal Father Montague (and Father Capulet), Karen Sault is a spirited Mother Montague (and Mother Capulet), and Tommy Hoang is a real swashbuckler as the hot-tempered Tibalt. Joe Brack’s wisecracking Mercutio lacks some essential snap, crackle, and pop; and Jazz Undy’s Paris (Romeo’s older and more well-heeled rival for Juliet’s affections) is a bit bland.

William Stutts Jr. is much more persuasive as Romeo’s friend Benvolio, and Ron Coley is good as Friar Lawrence. But it is SaRAH! Kocz’s sassy portrait of Juliet’s earthy Nurse and reluctant go-between between her mistress and Romeo that steals the show.

Director Scott Franco retains the highlights of the greatly condensed script, and labors mightily to get a polished performance from each cast member. The sword-fight choreography by Scott Franco and Heather J. Franco is sometimes forced and awkward, but there is no mistaking the promise demonstrated by this fledgling enterprise.

Second Opinion: May 19th Independent Weekly review by Byron Woods:

Raleigh Parks and Recreation Arts Program and Live Wire Theatre Company present Romeo and Juliet Saturday-Sunday, May 22-23 and 29-30, at 6 p.m. in Pullen Park, 520 Ashe Ave., Raleigh, North Carolina. (NOTE: Rain dates are June 5 and 6 at 6 p.m.). $8 (children 6 years and younger get in free). 919/831-6126. Raleigh Parks and Recreation Arts Program: [inactive 6/04]. Live Wire Theatre Company: Romeo and Juliet (University of Virginia E-text):