William Shakespeare is suffering from writer's block.
He owes two producers a new comedy, he can't finish the first line to a sonnet and he's in desperate need of inspiration.
In comes his muse, Viola, a beautiful woman who sparks him to write his masterpiece and will break the law to appear in his next play.
The shared love amidst themes of mistaken identity, scheming and physical comedy was that of the 1998 period film "Shakespeare in Love," a movie that won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Screenplay.
The hit among filmgoers and critics, written by Marc Norman and playwright Tom Stoppard, was adapted for the stage by Lee Hall and will make its way to the Segerstrom Stage at South Coast Repertory Jan. 13 to Feb. 10 under the expertise of artistic director Marc Masterson.
It's a sentimental production for Masterson, who has held the post at the theater for seven years.
In September, the theater announced Masterson's upcoming departure when his contract expires at the end of the current season. The search for his replacement will begin early this year.
"I'm very happy that my last show is of stature and magnitude," Masterson said by phone Wednesday.
The cast of 23 actors and dog Cinnamon Dempsey ("She'll steal the show," Masterson said with a laugh) welcomes back Paul David Story (Will Shakespeare) who previously appeared in the 2016 show "Red," directed by SCR founding artistic director David Emmes.
Carmela Corbett (Viola de Lesseps) also will return to the SCR stage after appearing in "Smokefall" by Noah Haidle and "Eurydice" by Sarah Ruhl.
Masterson, who came to SCR in 2011 from the well-acclaimed Actors Theatre of Louisville, where he served as artistic director for nearly 11 years, said "Shakespeare in Love" is a complex and wonderful challenge, from its dialects, stage combat, live music and costume changes.
It is not unique in size and scale, he said, as he had directed "All the Way," the Costa Mesa theater's 2016 main-stage season-opener based on Lyndon B. Johnson.
Masterson has directed seven of Shakespeare's plays and noted he would love to direct "King Lear" and "Hamlet."
"Shakespeare in Love" is a tribute to the power of theater and creativity and is particularly fitting for someone working in theater, Masterson said.
"There's so much going on in the world right now that's concerning, that makes us pause and wonder how things are going and a play like this that's smart, warm, funny and romantic is an escape from all that," Masterson said.
"It's just a lovely play for audiences."
If You Go
What: "Shakespeare in Love"
When: Jan. 13 to Feb. 10
Where: South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
Cost: Ticket prices vary
Information: (714) 708-5555 or scr.org.