Prominent Palestinian writer Atef Abu Saif and veteran Palestinian stage director and actor Ali Abu Yassin have managed to craft a clever Palestinian-specific social commentary from the timeless romance "Romeo and Juliet."
Their new play titled "Romeo and Juliet in Gaza" uses the iconic tale of the forbidden love between two star-crossed lovers to tell the story of Gaza's present, which is rife with political and economic turmoil.
In the Palestinian production, the star-crossed lovers are Youssef, the son of a member of the Hamas party which controls Gaza, and Suha, the daughter of a member of the Fatah party, the rivaling political force in Palestine that has control over the West Bank.
Much like Romeo and Juliet's 16th-century aristocratic families, Youssef and Suha's politically active families are constantly and irreconcilably feuding. The play portrays the deep-seated divisions between the two political rivals in several scenes that depict their repeated failed attempts to reach common ground.
But "Romeo and Juliet in Gaza" doesn't stop at drawing a picture of Palestine's current political landscape, it also portrays the effects this rivalry has had on Gaza's youth and Palestinian society as a whole.
"What makes Shakespeare's work distinguished is that it fits all the times and all the places. It's universal. They (the Palestinian audience) feel the play represents them, expresses what they can't express. They live with the story because it's exactly like them," Yassin told AP .
Since Hamas took control over Gaza in 2007, it has been under an Israel and Egypt-led blockade, which in combination with Israel's 2008 and 2014 wars on Gaza, have left the Palestinian territory's economy severely damaged and its young people disenfranchised.
This state is portrayed in a variety of scenes in the play, including one that depicts Youssef among other young men boarding a migrant boat heading to Europe, a common reality in today's Gaza.
In another scene, a local coffee shop owner shouts at Youssef and Suha's fathers as they argue, remarking that this situation is driving Palestinians to leave their own land because they have lost hope.
Despite the dark undertones, it is the young love story in the center of all the chaos that serves as the play's message of hope, according to Yassin.
"It's a call for love, to give a space for love and for youths to dream of a beautiful future away from the current state in Gaza, especially the youths and their suffering."