Two Gentlemen of Verona, known as the first comedic play written by Shakespeare was very well reenacted by the Judith Shakespeare Company known for their ‘signature gender-reverse casting’ thus making the play enjoyable.
Though the play seems like it could be understood by all age groups, with nice touches like a live dog for the possible presence children and even hints of caricature humor for adults, the fact that the entire play was in Old English made it hard to keep some children’s attention- other than, well, the dog, Crab.
The play focuses in on the relationship between Valentine (played by Rachael Hip-Flores) and Proteus (played by the very active Sheila Joon). With this, the play introduces love and relationships in the boy’s lives and we see how this strains and hurts the friendship between them, and the result it has in the end. One thing most audience members would take away is the choice Proteus makes on whether to follow his lust or maintain the true real friendship between him and Valentine. As the audience experiences the bond between the two men, it makes it interesting to watch the end results of Proteus’ decision and how it affects the characters and the play as a whole.
No actor lacked skills in acting from Hunter Gilmore playing the very admirable Silvia to Natasha Yannacenedo who played various roles throughout the play. A personal favorite was Suzanne Hayes,who played the loyal, witty and sarcastic Speed, side-kick to Valentine because her jokes were easily understood by the audience.
The fact that the performance space is very small, almost makes it uncomfortable for the audience to directly react, in terms of laughter, to the play.
However, one very interesting point in the play is that idle actors during certain scenes are still involved in the play, physically and emotionally, moving set pieces for scene changes and even laughing along to the jokes, creating a comfortable experience for the audience, even initiating imitation to the idle actors’ response to the performance. A great accent to the performance was the guitarist Austin Moorhead who, by strumming tunes ranging from playful to relaxing pieces, set the mood for scene changes, very nicely.
Once again, due to the fact that the entire play was in old English most audience members had no choice but to rely on the actor’s quality of performance. It seems young audience members enjoyed the comedic facial expressions and the fact that men were playing women’s roles and vice-versa, already created a comedic atmosphere. One could be happy to say that the comfortable and exaggerated acting enabled those who quiver at the name of Shakespeare, to still understand what was going on.
Check out footage from the TRaC roundtable discussion with guest speaker Alvin Chan, who plays Julia in Judith Shakespeare Company’s “The Two Gentlemen of Verona”: