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VERONA WALLS to Run 3/3-26 at Workshop Theater

Some Shakespearean tragedies are ripe for a prequel; amidst the chaos and bloodshed, you wonder what happened to get us here, and what might be going on just out of view. In "Verona Walls," playwright Laura Hirschberg, a Shakespeare devotee since childhood, imagines a background story for "Romeo and Juliet" that is separate from the ancient grudges that frame the Bard's tragedy. She spins a separate and most profound "bromance" for the Montague boys in this new play, which centers on the loves and mistakes of Mercutio--Romeo's best friend and Shakespeare's notorious scene-stealer--as the action of "Romeo and Juliet" plays out somewhere offstage. The Workshop Theater, 312 West 36th Street, will present the play's world premiere March 3 to 26, directed by DeLisa M. White.

Check out this promo for the show!

The play is a story of real love and powerful friendship in Shakespeare's star-crossed city. Following a string of bad dates, Mercutio is through with love and content to drink, fight, and party alongside his best friends, Romeo and Benvolio. That is, until he crosses paths with Alyssa, an intriguing woman who happens to passing through Verona on her way to further adventures.

The play's key romance, between Mercutio and Alyssa, is complete with misunderstandings, perfect happiness, and devastating heartbreak. Alyssa, an original character, has overtones of Beatrice from "Much Ado About Nothing" but she is, in many ways, distinctly un-Shakespearean. Her foil is Romeo's off-stage love object in "Romeo and Juliet," the irresistible Rosaline. Mistress Quickly, borrowed from Shakespeare's "Henry IV," tends bar at the boys' favorite hangout.

The play might initially seem like "Friends" set in Verona, but Shakespeare's tragedy is always lurking on the periphery. The events of "Romeo and Juliet" gradually seep into the action with tragic results as the characters grapple with their notions of love, home, friendship, and sacrifice.

The piece's eternal themes drive its design concept. Director DeLisa White states, "Ultimately, the story of whether you are lover or a fighter--and what love means to you--can't be learned from history. The subject of this story is perennial and recurrent." In the production's concept, indicators of period language and clothing are meant to drive home the extent to which the play's themes resonate through time. The set is rooted in Veronese architecture, but layered with street art and graffiti. Costuming mixes the Elizabethan and the modern. The show is inherently anachronistic, so we see cellphones and swords, leather jackets and flower garlands. In the script, classical verse mixes with Star Wars references and Auden poetry. Music, a language of love featured heavily throughout the play, will range from The Beatles to Cheap Trick to Gershwin to Bowie.

The actors are Ryan McCurdy, Rachel Flynn, Lauren Riddle, Jacob Owen, Christine Verleny, Mick Bleyer, Ben Sumrall, Liz Wasser and Matt Russell. Set design is by Connor Munion. Lighting design is by Scot Gianeli. Costume design is by Kimberley Windbiel. Music direction is by Jeff Paul.

Laura Hirschberg (playwright) is a New York City based playwright/director/stage manager. She is a long-time member of The Workshop Theater Company, where she currently serves as Associate Artistic Director, and is also a member of 3V Theatre. Her previously produced works include "Fire Thief" (Looking Glass Theatre), "Call Me..." (The Workshop Theater), "Fish Food" (The Workshop Theater), "Heart of Oak" (Everyday Inferno) and numerous staged readings with 3V and the 9BC Performance Series.

DeLisa White (Director) received the 2014 New York Innovative Theatre Award for Outstanding Director for "Lights Narrow" by Vincent Marano (IT noms: Best Production -Play, Best Full-Length Play). She has also directed "Good Boys and True," "Appeal to the Woman of the House," "Poe Times Two" for Cape May Stage and The Workshop Theater, "Generic Magic Realism" by Ed Malin (IT nom: Best Solo Performance for Nat Cassidy) and "Things at the Doorstep," a play inspired by H.P. Lovecraft. Productions she has directed have earned 13 IT nominations and three wins. She has also designed sound for Retro Productions, The Workshop Theater and the NY Fringe Festival and has provided foley effects for Pandora Machine Films and WWOW Cranston and Spade Radio.

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