NEW BEDFORD — An old American tradition was brought back for a Saturday afternoon as the Glass Horse Project staged their "Shakespeare in the Park" version of "Romeo and Juliet" for an audience of about 125 spread out on the grass in front of the park stage.

Most people have a traditional expectation of the play, but Glass Horse producer Korey Pimental of New Bedford, a recent UMass Dartmouth graduate, decided to make a radical change and put the play in a post-apocalyptic dystopia run by matriarchs. People have liked dark, menacing themes in movies, so he decided to try it.

It fit the bill that is stated as the Glass Horse objective: “The Glass Horse Project seeks to bring exhilarating, innovative theatrical projects to the South Coast, using minimal setting and the actor's tool kit.”

That they did, much to the likely surprise and/or puzzlement of the audience.

Several people who spoke to The Standard-Times said that they had no idea of what the production would look like, except for Anne Borges of Swansea, who said she is Pimental’s best friend, noting that they met at UMass Dartmouth in the theater department.

Donna Cordeiro, who teaches English at Fairhaven High School, was there expecting a traditional production, and when told of what was in store, a look of bemusement crossed her face. “I had no idea,” she said, and neither did her friend Susan Dickens of New Bedford.

The Glass Horse team added inventive touches to the play. For one thing, so many women answered the casting call for auditions that director Emma Givney of Waltham said she decided to make the world a matriarchy because she had so much female talent to work with.

Juliet King, who plays Juliet King of Weymouth, is 67 percent deaf, presenting challenges that she and the crew overcame. One of the added touches was American Sign Language used by the actors in scenes with Juliet in them.

The play was estimated to last as much as three hours.

Pimental said that Glass Horse, which operates out of the basement stage at the Gallery X church building on William Street, hopes to stage more ambitious productions that could be financed by sponsorships and grants.

“Romeo and Juliet” was co-sponsored by the City of New Bedford, the New Bedford Free Public Library, Gallery X, Gardens Delivered and the New Bedford Parks Department.

Follow Steve Urbon on Twitter @SteveUrbonSCT