I’ve heard it’s not known how good a President is until after the presidency—to feel the after affects. It can be the same way with theatre. Sometimes I walk away from a good show not knowing how great it is until months and years later. I know it’s a great show if I’m still reminiscing about it. Beautiful moments are forever burned in my memory about Two Gents. The scene, the costumes, the acting are all in the deep belly of the imagination of The Old Globe’s Two Gents.
There is a scene when Julia (Kristin Villanueva) is alone and rends a note from her beloved Proteus then realizes who it’s from when she sees his signature. There is a well-played beat between each sentence.
“Thus will I fold them one upon another,” she says as she picks up a crinkled piece of the letter.
“Now kiss.” She brings the opposite sides together.
“Embrace.” She takes two corners and wraps them around each other like arms.
“Contend.” She falls to the floor bringing the paper to her neck.
“Do what you will,” she says longingly and rubs the paper together. The audience
responds to Villanueva’s clever version with a knowing laugh.
This is one of those scenes like The Mechanicals in a play within a play in Midsummer. The adventure in going to a Shakespeare play numerous times is to see how the same amusing scene will be interpreted. But, will it ever be as good as Villanueva’s? It will be difficult to top her performance.
There are many funny characters like Proteus (Adam Kantor) even though he tries to forcefully kiss Silvia (Britney Coleman) in front of his friend Valentine (Hubert Point-Du Jour) his charisma and comedic timing save the character. Speed (Rusty Ross), a servant to Valentine, speaks in circles with the famous line, “Love is blind.” Another servant to Valentine, Launce (Richard Ruiz) is adorably funny as he explains his family using his shoes and stick then switches who is the right shoe and who is the left and who is the stick. His expressions are childlike enhanced by his sidekick and dog Crab (Khloe Jezbera). Khloe lays down as Ruiz begins his long monologue. The dog looks at him on occasion with intent. Then there is Turio’s (Lowell Byers) costume. He is dressed in Renaissance style by costume designer Linda Cho. She shoots for quirky by making the costume in a monochromatic chartreuse with an erect phallus of the same material. The spectators whisper to each other in amusement of the costume that Byers’ vainly wears like in The Emperor’s New Clothes.
Even the set has its own persona. It’s over the top just like the Renaissance inspirations scenic designer John Arnone takes from. An elaborate town is perhaps cut-out in particle board then painted in detail. The castle from Benozzo Gozzoli’s fresco Procession of the Magi in Florence’s Palazzo Medici Riccardi is in the background above the bridge in the middle of the stage. To each side are towns of houses surrounding other castles with multiple layers. Trees are dotted here and there on the two story set.
The Two Gentlemen of Verona is known as Two Gents in the theatre world. It’s arguably Shakespeare’s first play. It is also his shortest. So why is this play not produced more often or read in high school and college? There are issues with names of places and the troubles of the lovers don’t go too deep. Hence, the name Proteus, meaning fickleness. It all can be overlooked. This would be a great play to introduce anyone to Shakespeare since it is short, humorous and easy to digest.
Director and Tony Award nominee Mark Lamos works with the strengths of the play by choosing Adam Kantor to create a likeable Proteus, the elaborate Renaissance theme complements the poetry and the scene at the end where Point-Du Jour puts Kantor’s hand in Coleman’s works because of Point-Du Jour’s gentlemanly behavior. Lamos celebrates the gentleman rather than the scoundrel.
The Old Globe, 1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego, CA 92101. Box Office (619) 234-5623. The Two Gentlemen of Verona runs August 10 – September 14, 2014 at the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre.