Two Gentlemen of Verona may not be Shakespeare's best comedy, but it's still a fine play and is a welcome sight in any season. As the title indicates, the story is about two Gentlemen named Valentine and Proteus, who are from Verona but leave the titular city to seek their fortunes in Milan. Valentine (Henry Martone) leaves Verona right at the start of the play, and later stumbles into love with the fair Sylvia (Jessica Myhr). Valentine’s pal Proteus (Jeremy Beck) is later sent off to Milan, leaving behind his love, the fair Julia (Sharon Paige), though he eventually ends up competing for the hand of Sylvia. Shakespeare is never satisfied with a mere love triangle, so things grow more complicated, as wacky outlaws turn up to kidnap people, a third gent vies for Sylvia’s love, and Julia disguises herself as a man, to win back Proteus.
The Boomerang Theatre Company set its interpretation of the play in the early 20th century. The time period was conveyed solely through Marion Talan’s costume design, which was strong enough to get the point across without any other design elements. The new time period suits the story adequately, illustrating the timeless nature of a story about lovers chasing after one another, and it was implemented with enough subtlety so that it didn’t interfere with the story.
Director Kate Ross did not fiddle too much with the basics of the play (aside from the time period), and the result was a genuinely funny comedy, with a lot of physical bits, including some great shtick where Proteus and Thurio (Dennis McNitt) tried to upstage each other while singing a ballad for Sylvia.
One of the most entertaining bits in Two Gentlemen… is the dog. One character, Crab, is a dog who is sometimes played by a guy in a dog suit, other times by a puppet; but, in this production, Crab was played by an actual puppy. Gracie the wiener dog was a complete scene-stealer, and a fine example of canine thespianism. The addition of a live dog offered some opportunities for extra gags, like the moment when Gracie was pulled out of a suitcase halfway through the scene.
The human cast members did a good job too, with Ron McClary standing out as Launce (Crab's owner). Of course Valentine and Proteus are the backbone of any production of Two Gentlemen…, as are Sylvia and Julia, and the leading performers were a strong backbone for the rest of the cast.
This production was Boomerang's annual outdoor show. The Central Park performances were staged on the side of a hill, with a flat playing area in front of it. This particular location was a perfect natural stage, and had ample seating for the crowd, in the shade of nearby trees. Many outdoor productions are plagued with interruptions by passersby, but this particular performance, however, was free from the usual interlopers that interrupt theatre in public places.
The Boomerang Theatre Company was not out to reinvent this play, and they did a fine job of making Shakespeare accessible to the public.
(Also featuring Sara Thigpen, Mac Brydon, Patrick Connolly, Bill Weeden, and Peter Morr.)
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Copyright 2005 Charles Battersby