Acting Company Brings New Victory To Romeo & Juliet, Jan. 29

News   Acting Company Brings New Victory To Romeo & Juliet, Jan. 29
What with the all-male R & J making waves in New York, leave it to The Acting Company to take a more traditional approach to Romeo and Juliet, directed by James Bundy.

What with the all-male R & J making waves in New York, leave it to The Acting Company to take a more traditional approach to Romeo and Juliet, directed by James Bundy.

Tony winners Ming Cho Lee and Ann Hould-Ward (sets and costumes) designed this production, which plays at NYC's New Victory Theatre Jan. 29-Feb. 8, followed by a national tour in rep with Love's Fire, Feb. 9-May 9. For tickets ($10-$25) and information call (212) 239-6200.

Members of the Acting Company include Jennifer Rohn, Clark Scott Carmichael, Lisa Tharps, Jason Alan Carvell, stephen DeRosa, Christopher Edwards, James Farmer, Hamish Linklater, Robert Alexander Owens, Daniel Pearce, Heather Robinson, Erika Rolfsrud and James Stanley.

Following the cross-country tour, the Acting Company travels to London in May to participate in the Barbican's "Inventing America" festival.

The Acting Company was founded in 1972 by Margot Harley and John Houseman from the first graduating class of the Juilliard School's Drama Division, with a mission to take theatre to audiences across the U.S. Its many illustrious alumni include Kevin Kline, Patti LuPone, Gerald Gutierrez, and David Ogden Stiers. As for Love's Fire, it's an evening of one-act plays and music inspired by Shakespeare's sonnets. And who better to adapt the Bard's poetry than some of the leading voices in American theatre? The Acting Company snared a real A-list of writers -- Eric Bogosian, William Finn, John Guare, Tony Kushner, Marsha Norman, Ntozake Shange, and Wendy Wasserstein -- to update the sonnets and give them a contemporary spin.

Directed by Mark Lamos, the evening of seven one-acts, Love's Fire: Fresh Numbers by Seven American Playwrights, had its world premiere at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, MN, Jan. 3, followed by a 45-city cross-country tour, a stint at the Barbican Center in London from May 20 June 7, and a New York engagement June 12-28 at a theatre to be announced.

The playlets are as diverse in tone and theme as the playwrights themselves.

Bogosian has taken Sonnet 118 and come up with a story of sexual jealousy and obsessiveness. The three-character play involves a bride, a groom, and the bride's former lover.

Composer Finn has turned Sonnet 102 into a song about an artist attempting to paint his lover -- and failing miserably at his efforts.

Guare's contribution, an adaptation of Sonnet 154, focuses on a group of actors who are attempting to do a dramatic adaptation of -- guess what? -- Shakespeare's Sonnet 154. Guare's play includes music by Floyd Collins composer Adam Guettel.

Kushner has adapted Sonnet 75 into a work for four characters: a man, his female psychiatrist, and two people who are figments of their imaginations.

Norman's contribution, drawn from Sonnet 140, is a La Ronde-like play about betrayal and sexual jealousy.

Shange's one-act, based on Sonnet 128, is an exploration of music and dance that begins with a man watching his lover perform a jazz composition. The music is by jazz notable Chico Freeman, with choreography by Dyane Harvey.

Wasserstein's one-act play, inspired by Sonnet 94 , is set in the Hamptons, where a well-to-do couple is getting ready to attend a society benefit.

"The intriguing thing about the sonnets is that while they are about romantic and sexual love, they are not bound to any particular setting or even to any particular sex -- male or female," said Lincoln Center Theatre's Anne Cattaneo, the dramaturge who came up with the idea for Love's Fire, in a recent interview.

"Our challenge to the seven writers was to explore the emotional moments of the sonnets," said Cattaneo.

The Shakespeare project was inspired by The Acting Company's successful production of Orchards a decade ago, in which seven writers -- including Guare and Wasserstein -- were asked to update the short stories of Chekhov, added Cattaneo.

Rehearsals began in December; the first performances of Love's Fire were given at the Guthrie Theatre Lab in Minneapolis, MN, Jan. 3-18.

-- By Rebecca Paller and David Lefkowitz

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