Love is complicated. It can take us to soaring heights and deep dark depths. No other playwright explored all the facets of love better than William Shakespeare. With Valentine’s Day coming up, the timing for DramaDogs Theater Co. to bring this newly devised play, Tales of Woo and Woe, to life is perfect — playing Feb. 6-14 at Center Stage Theater in Santa Barbara.

“We have all made complete and utter fools of ourselves in the name of love, in pursuing a relationship and we have all in our own way yearned and felt loss so deeply, so to the marrow of our bones that we had no words,” said E. Bonnie Lewis, co-director/choreographer. “Shakespeare, gives us words and they still ring true.”

Playwright Jinny Webber said, “This script has been in the works for some five years: Ken and Bonnie loved the idea of ‘wooing’ and ‘woe’ in Shakespeare’s works, and I’ve played with ways to engage the actors and audience with these emotions from a universal perspective. It’s daring to pick and choose among Shakespeare’s many wonderful lines to create a whole new structure, but that’s what Tales of Woo and Woe does; it creates an emotional arc which, rather than being the story of any particular pair of lovers, follows the feelings and stages of any of us in our own experiences of love. The play takes us on a journey through the varieties and perplexities of love, flowing from one play or poem into the next.”

Body-centered acting is the style DramaDogs has championed and made its own. Co-founder/director Ken Gilbert said of the production, “As with all of our projects the process unravels and evolves with the ensemble of individuals’ talents and skills. We demand the actors to work in the physical realm that evokes and provokes imagery and emotion. This is challenging in any language; especially with the richness of Shakespeare. Each performer is finding his/her way with connecting the words to physical and emotional action, which brings the words to life in unique ways. All of the movement in the rehearsal stimulates the actors’ breath, movement, sound, voice into the words of a sonnet, a monologue, a scene or a song.”

The show runs about 80 minutes, without an intermission, and staging has the cast on stage throughout.

“Our actors are sublime. Delving into the work fearlessly. As director/choreographer it is inspiring and actually pushes me forward,” Lewis said.

There will be live music on stage. Three actors, Jennifer Marco, Josh Jenkins and Hylla Fischer, are guiding the music.

“As an actor, I savor taking on the challenge of making sense of and speaking the truth through this language,” Lewis said. “We don’t speak like this and there is a bawdiness partnered with gorgeous imagery and poetry, if you will, that I personally find exciting. I’m thrilled about creating a person speaking these thoughts, with this language. Working with someone like our Jinny who has this great love and understanding of the times and the language makes my task easier, but is also quite infectious.”

This is the company’s second play by Webber. The first was Queen Undaunted, a solo show created for Lewis that played to great critical and public acclaim. It was also culled from several of the Bard’s plays where Queen Margaret was a minor character but Webber found a through line and followed it.

Audiences don’t need to be familiar with Shakespeare, said the playwright; in fact, she added, “some of the audience may want to return for another viewing of the play (and we’re making a special ticket offer to those who do), but our intention is to evoke the eternal feelings Shakespeare expresses for everyone who attends, regardless of what they know or don’t know about Shakespeare as they walk through the doors of Center Stage Theater.

“The fun of putting this show together is to transform powerful emotional moments of Shakespeare’s works into a unified whole with wide appeal, particularly during the Valentine’s season when thoughts turn towards love,” Webber said with a knowing smile.

Tales of Woo and Woe collects words from 15 plays and eight sonnets by The Bard to be presented in its world premiere by DramaDogs at Center Stage Theater, 750 Paseo Nuevo in downtown Santa Barbara from Feb. 6-14. Call 805.963.0408 or go online by clicking here to order tickets anytime.

Center Stage is wheelchair accessible and has the Assistive Listening System in place for people who are hard of hearing.

This project is funded in part by the Community Arts Grant Program using funds provided by the City of Santa Barbara in partnership with the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission. It is also funded in part by the Center Stage Rent Subsidy Program.

— Maureen McFadden is a publicist representing DramaDogs Theater Co.