Considered by many to be The Bard’s first stage play, THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA shows how foolish people can act when they are smitten with each other. Of course, Shakespeare can sometimes be far too dry for some people, and this play is obviously not in the same league as HAMLET or R & J. Because of this, director Deb Braak and text editor Chris Braak took some creative license, changing THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA into something that most everyone can enjoy. If you go, get the Elizabethan age out of your head; instead, get ready for a play set in the 1950s with some Miller Lites, a Superman t-shirt, a poodle skirt, and plenty of hand jiving. And somehow…it all works.
A Verona man, Valentine (Nathan Bradley), wants to broaden his horizons in Milan. He begs his best friend, Proteus (Philip Seader), to accompany him there, but Proteus doesn’t want to leave his lady love, Julia (Laura Watson-Shoeman). Proteus does eventually join Valentine and immediately falls in love with Silvia (Heather Reese), whom Valentine also loves. What ensues are your normal Shakespeare problems of multiple suitors, angry parents, and some outlaws thrown in; mix in some awesome sword fighting (courtesy of fight choreographer Chris Braak) and uber-talented supporting players Allison Deratzian (Speed), Anthony Marsala (Launce), Maria Jarrell (Lucetta/Outlaw), Mike Shoeman (Thurio), Aaron Gould (Duke), Dave Leva II (Crab/Outlaw), and Wendy Mirto (Antonia/Hostess/Outlaw), and this experiment works!
I shudder to think what would have happened if there was one weak link in this cast, but there is not. Opening night and a William Shakespeare play do not often mix well, but every actor came completely prepared. Bradley, Seader, Watson-Shoeman, and Reese are hysterical as the four leads; I think why they are so effective is simply because they exaggerate how ridiculous some of these lines sound in the year 2013. And Deratzian, Marsala, and Jarrell are always a pleasure to watch; their comedic chops can really shine in an adaptation like this (Jarrell as a beatnik is priceless).
Usually my least favorite part of any production is sitting there in the dark while a scene changes. In this rendition, the actors (especially Marsala) dance to 1950s tunes on stage while they are changing the simple turntable sets. This adds more of a period vibe to the show and makes even mundane scene changes enjoyable for the audience.
Playcrafters’ version of THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA makes Shakespeare accessible for the modern age, and I think all but the deepest purists will really like it. I know I did!
THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA
by William Shakespeare
Text Edited and Adapted by Chris Braak
Directed by Deb Braak
October 18-27, 2013
Playcrafters of Skippack
2011 Store Road