William Shakespeare: poet, player… hot mess. Sure, today he’s the most admired playwright of all time. But in 1593, he was just a talented kid with a bad case of writer’s block. Shakespeare in Love sweeps us back to a time when the young bard struggled to eke out a living in the glittering, perilous world of Elizabethan London. He has promised his latest mess of a play, Romeo and Ethel the Pirate’s Daughter, to two different producers and all his best ideas come from his friend and much more successful rival, Christopher Marlowe.
And then he meets Viola de Lesseps. Smart, stunning and enamored with his writing, she seems like the only person in London who doesn’t see him as a pale shadow of Marlowe. There’s just one problem: she’s high born and promised to the powerful but possessive Lord Wessex. Clearly, their love is doomed… star-crossed, one might say… which gives Will an idea. Slowly, the play that will become Romeo and Juliet begins to take shape, inspired by their stolen moments and forbidden passion, not to mention Will’s bumbling attempt to climb Viola’s balcony.
But Viola isn’t content with the role of muse. She will stop at nothing—including disguising herself as a man and breaking the law—to be in his play. As “Thomas Kent,” she lands the role of Romeo and becomes Will’s confidante. Blissfully unaware that his Romeo is also his Juliet, Will writes their blossoming love story into his play. As Viola’s dreaded wedding day approaches—and her masquerade is discovered—Will’s comedy morphs into a tragedy. Nevertheless, the show must go on… and there are a few more surprises in store for everyone before the curtain finally falls on this love story for the ages.
Based on the hit Miramax film that swept the 1999 Academy Awards, Shakespeare in Love brings Will and Viola’s tale to the stage where it belongs. Although sweeping passion drives the plot, Shakespeare in Love is much more than a romance. It’s also a love letter to the theatre. The witty script scrambles our favorite Shakespearean tropes—mistaken identities, scheming nobles, star-crossed lovers, bad puns and an emergency dose of regina ex machina—into a brilliant mashup that’s at once classic and modern. From underwhelming auditions to showtime disasters, Shakespeare in Love celebrates the backstage mayhem that somehow turns into something transcendent—and lets us fall in love with the ragtag group of grandstanding actors and backstabbing producers who will go on to become legends.
SCR’s lavish production, helmed by Artistic Director Marc Masterson, is a feast for the eyes, ears, mind and heart. Susan Tsu’s glorious period costumes bring a panoply of ruffs, puffs and hoops to the stage, perfectly capturing the splendor of Elizabethan fashion. A team of live musicians onstage, under Scott Waara’s direction, chimes in with period music. Ralph Funicello’s sets, Jaymi Lee Smith’s lighting and Jeff Polunas’ sound design complete the stage picture, while Annie Loui, Ken Merckx and David Nevell contribute their talents in choreography, fight direction and dialects. And who better to coordinate the dazzling complexity of this production than stage manager Roxana Khan, assisted by Sue Karutz?
Last, but not least, a team of outstanding actors lends their collective expertise to this hilarious, exuberant tale. Led by Paul David Story as Will and Carmela Corbett as Viola, the cast also features Ricky Abilez, Corey Brill, Bill Brochtrup, Stephen Caffrey, Alicia Erlinger, Bo Foxworth, Nick Gabriel, Matthew Henerson, Lex Leigh, Louis Lotorto, James MacEwan, Aaron McGee, William Francis McGuire, Elyse Mirto, Nicholas Mongiardo-Cooper, David Nevell, Bing Putney, Adam Silver, Scott Waara, Amelia White and Fleur Zanna, as well as a very special bulldog named Cinnamon.
“Can a play show us the very truth and nature of love?” asks Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love. SCR’s production of this modern classic ups the ante: it shows us not only timeless love, but also the nature of comedy and the truth in artifice. Whether you’re a Shakespeare aficionado or a newcomer to the theatre, this superb story is sure to delight.
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