A Love Letter to the Theatre

Kat Zukaitis
 | Jan 09, 2018

A Love Letter to Theatre

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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  1. Harris & Eileen Stutman | Feb 08, 2018

    Betraying myself for a moment, I wondered how many of the conventions and depictions of the motion picture would translate onto the stage, forgetting that these are different art forms and each mu use its own strengths in telling a story (even the same story). Surely there were differences, but none distracted from the wit, the poignancy, or the 'tragedy' of the script - they just told the story in slightly different ways....I cannot remember a 2 1/2 hour production that seemed so short. Incredibly engaging, the audience hanging on very word, just wonderful with special kudos to Paul David Story and Carmela Corbett (who we were privileged to meet during the In the Season seminar). 

    Cannot wait to see how Shrew! does a take on another of the Bard's plays ("10 Things I hate about you" was the original methinks!!). 

  2. Brian Ruttencutter | Jan 15, 2018

    This is an outstanding presentation in every way and all the more wonderful since I witnessed its brilliance on opening night. 

    Cheers to the actors, director, choreographers, costume designer and the entire technical team.  I was taken in with the production from its opening moments up to its syncopated quasi-tragic, yet uplifting ending.  This play is a feast for the eyes and ears and an absolute delight.

    i wondered how the marvelous movie, certainly the best of 1999, would translate to the stage.  All I can say is "bravo" and well done!  This was a glorious entertainment and I can only say "thanks" for gifting us with what is the best production of many that I've seen over the years on this stage!

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