Bangor native gets bloody in “Romeo & Juliet & Zombies” at Stonington Opera House

Matt Hurley (right) and Melody Bates star as the lovers in "Romeo & Juliet & Zombies" at the Stonington Opera House.

Matt Hurley (right) and Melody Bates star as the lovers in “Romeo & Juliet & Zombies” at the Stonington Opera House.

The Stonington Opera House is each summer host to one of the most unique theatrical experiences in the state: their yearly Shakespeare production. It’s always challenging, always visually appealing and always a different take on the Bard , sometimes taking on some of his less-performed plays, like “Cymbeline” and “The Winter’s Tale.” This year, however, Opera House Arts directors Linda Nelson and Judith Jerome chose “Romeo & Juliet” as this year’s Shakespeare production, arguably the most popular Bard tale and a real crowd-pleaser. OHA also offers programming around Shakespeare; sometimes special events, sometimes lectures, and some years another full production in repertory with the main stage show. This year Shakespeare lovers get a bonus show that’s a little dark, a little funny and a lot bloody. It’s got zombies. No, really. Zombies.

“Romeo & Juliet & Zombies,” written by longtime OHA actress and director Melody Bates, opens this weekend, and poses this question: What would happen if Romeo and Juliet rose from the dead after dying? In the role of reanimated Romeo is actor Matt Hurley, a Bangor native and 2001 graduate of Bangor High School, who happened to audition for the show in New York City, and now finds himself spending most of the summer in his own state. Hurley, who has been seen on AMC’s “Hell on Wheels” and on the web series “Bocce Ballers,” answered a few questions for the BDN about blood, gore and the great state of Maine.

First off, tell us about “Romeo & Juliet & Zombies.” What’s the premise and what drew you to doing this show?

It’s written by Melody Bates, who also plays Juliet in the play, and takes place after act five of Shakespeare’s play. The two lovers come back after death and are stuck in a ‘zombie limbo.’ The play actually uses most of Shakespeare’s act five, and Melody has continued the story in the structured verse that Shakespeare uses in his plays. The play struck me with how beautiful her language is. [Melody] really did justice to the transition from Shakespeare to contemporary. It’s also very funny.

The folks in Stonington do such unique things with Shakespeare each year — what’s most fun? Most challenging? How bloody do you actually get?

R&J&Z is a bloody play!  I think some people on opening night were surprised by it all. But at the same time it is not too over the top to take you out of the story being told. We like to ride that line of shock and laughter and maybe a few tears by the end of it all.

Prior to this summer, what are some of the film and TV roles you’ve played in recent months and years? What do you have in the works for the near future?

My first TV gig was on a show for AMC called “Hell on Wheels.” It is a western and they flew me up to Calgary to film it for a week and a half.  I had always wanted to do a western and was lucky enough.  I got to walk around on set with these old school six shooters on my hip… so fun! After the show I am back to NYC. I have a few things in the works. I am making a short film called “What The Sparrow Said.” It was a play that came out of a class at Columbia University by my friend Danny Mitarotondo and is about two brothers and how they deal with the loss of their mother.  We got Tom Noonan, who directed the movie “Synecdoche, New York” to direct it, and Anson Mount from “Hell on Wheels” to executive produce, so I’m pretty excited about that.

When you come back to Maine, what’s the first thing you do?

Every time I come back to Bangor I usually head for Pat’s Pizza within the first 48 hours.  How can you not?

Performances of “Romeo & Juliet” are set for 7 p.m. July 17 and 19; performances of “Romeo & Juliet & Zombies” are set for 7 p.m. July 11-13 and 7 p.m. July 18 and 20, all at the Stonington Opera House. Tickets are $25-$35.

Emily Burnham

About Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native, a UMaine graduate, a proud Bangorian and an arts and lifestyle writer for the Bangor Daily News, where she's worked since 2004. She reports on everything from local bands to local food, from media and the Internet to theater and dance. In her quest for stories, she's seen countless concerts and plays, been lobster fishing, interviewed celebrities, hung out with water buffalo and played in a ukulele orchestra, to name just a few. She's interested in everything -- especially if it happens in Maine. She welcomes any and all feedback or suggestions for stories.