'Shakespeare in Love'

Ben Miles

“Shakespeare in Love” made its cinematic debut in 1998. With a screenplay by Tom Stoppard and Mark Norman, the film won that year’s Oscar for Best Picture. In 2013, the romantic farce and history-inspired fantasy was adapted to the stage by playwright Lee Hall. The premier production took place at the Noel Coward Theatre in London’s West End in July of 2014. It was hailed as a “A joyous celebration of theatre” in the British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph.

Now “Shakespeare...” is making a debut in The OC at Costa Mesa’s South Coast Repertory, through Feb. 10.

Under Marc Masterson’s masterful direction and with a complex scenic design by Ralph Funicello, elaborate costuming by Susan Tsu, and live, on-the-spot music orchestrated by Scott Waara, the essential elements of a quality production are exquisitely aligned (including Jaymi Lee Smith’s well-timed lighting motif, Jeff Polunas’s nuanced sound design and Annie Loui nicely paced choreography, along with Ken Merckx’s fight choreography and staged fencing matches).

The plot line traces a youthful Will Shakespeare (an agile Paul David Story as the boyish bard) as he battles a bout of writer’s block while under pressure to create a fresh, new comedy for two separate but equally demanding producers. So far Will has but a vague notion of a story he has tentatively titled “Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter.”

Viola (charming Carmela Corbett), a beautiful aspiring actress — and a great admirer of Will — makes it her obsession to perform in Shakespeare’s next play, even though at the time (circa the 1590s) only males we’re permitted to perform on stage.  Viola will stop at nothing in order to achieve her goal.

Mixed identities, intimate trysts and mischievous machinations fulfill the requirements of a classic farce, but there’s much more than slapstick or formulaic

set-up/punchline routines in evidence here; there’s also a good deal of rich wit on display. As in the film, humorous wordplay is readily indulged in Hall’s script adaptation. For example, in the initial scene of the show, a dog named Spot is part of the proceedings. As the scene is concluded, one character says to the canine, “Out damn Spot.”

With Hall’s clever Stoppard-inspired script, Marc Masterson’s sturdy helming, top-shelf production values and a huge but excellent ensemble of performers (which includes Elyse Mirto as Queen Elizabeth 1; Corey Brill as Kit Marlowe; Bo Foxworth as Henslow; Louis Lotorto as Richard Burbage; and Bill Brochtrup as Lord Wessex— to mention several standouts amidst a highly capable cast), “Shakespeare in Love” is adorable.

“Shakespeare in Love” continues on the Segerstrom Stage at South Coast Repertory through Feb. 10. SCR is located at 655 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa.

Evening Performances are Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, at 7:30 p.m. On Fridays and Saturdays performances are at 8 p.m.: Matinees are Saturdays and Sundays  at 2:30 p.m. An ASL-interpreted performance is scheduled Saturday, Feb. 3, at 2:30 p.m.

For reservations, call (714) 708-5555. For online ticketing and further information, visit www.scr.org.



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