Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Los Angeles

Shakespeare in LoveSouth Coast Repertory
Review by Terry Morgan

Paul David Story and
Carmela Corbett

Photo by Jordan Kubat
These days, films are regularly being converted into musicals, some which actually benefit from the change. It's rarer to see a film made into a dramatic play, perhaps because of the belief that there's less box office profit to be had. When the movie Shakespeare in Love came out in 1998, it was a popular success that won seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Screenplay for Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard. So one can see why the thought of adapting it for the stage was appealing. Unfortunately, Lee Hall's adaptation lacks the spark of the original source material, and while the production at South Coast Repertory has some good performances, it never really catches fire.

Will Shakespeare (Paul David Story) has writer's block on his new play, Romeo and Ethel, The Pirate's Daughter. He's promised the play to two different theatre proprietors, the roguish Henslowe (Bo Foxworth) and the extravagantly theatrical Burbage (Louis Lotorto), and they're getting impatient. Meanwhile, Viola (Carmela Corbett), a fan of Shakespeare's writing, has disguised herself as a man to act in one of his plays. Viola and Will fall for each other, which displeases Lord Wessex (Bill Brochtrup), who's been promised her hand in marriage.

Story is regrettably a bit unconvincing as Will, which may partly be the fault of the adaptation, seeming more like an out-of-his-depth student than the young Bard. Oddly, in a scene where he plays Romeo, his performance works. Corbett fares much better as Viola, garnering sympathy in her scenes about her unwanted marriage and reveling in her romantic and playacting moments. Foxworth is scurrilously hilarious as the grungy Henslowe, and Lotorto is very funny as enraged thespian Burbage. Finally, Brochtrup does fine work as the dastardly Wessex, getting more amusing the angrier he becomes.

Marc Masterson's direction feels a bit unfocused, in particular a set-piece scene where a script gets tossed around and it's hard to follow the chaotic action. He does, however, get good work from his large ensemble. The main problem with Hall's adaptation is that it doesn't make a convincing case for why this story needed to be made into a play—i.e. if somebody hadn't seen the film and saw this first, they'd wonder what all the fuss had been about. Susan Tsu's costumes, though, are detailed and lovely.

Shakespeare In Love, through February 10, 2018, at South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr, Costa Mesa CA. Tickets and info are available at

Adapted by Lee Hall from the screenplay by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard
Director: Marc Masterson
Lighting Design: Jaymi Lee Smith
Scenic Design: Ralph Funicello
Costume Design: Susan Tsu
Sound Design: Jeff Polunas
Choreography: Annie Loui

Will Shakespeare : Paul David Story
Kit Marlowe : Corey Brill
Henslowe : Bo Foxworth
Fennyman : William Francis McGuire
Lambert/Sir Robert de Lesseps/Burbage's Heavy/Abraham : Stephen Caffrey
Frees/Wabash/Prince/Bishop : Nicholas Mongiardo-Cooper
Richard Burbage : Louis Lotorto
Mistress Quickly/Molly/Lady in Waiting: Alicia Erlinger
Edmund Tilney : David Nevell
Actor/Robin/Boatman/Lady Capulet : Adam Silver
Queen Elizabeth I : Elyse Mirto
Valentine/Barman/Peter/Tybalt/Adam/Gregory/Guard : Aaron McGee
Proteus/Waiter/Nol/Guard/Benvolio/Sampson : James MacEwan
Viola de Lesseps: Carmela Corbett
Nurse : Amelia White
Ralph/Juliet's Nurse/Catling/Petruchio : Matthew Henerson
John Webster : Bing Putney
Lord Wessex : Bill Brochtrup
Ned Alleyn : Nick Gabriel
Sam/Juliet : Ricky Abilez
Kate/Lady in Waiting : Fleur Zana
Musician : Lex Leigh
Musician : Scott Waara
Spot : Cinnamon Dempsey