Traditional Shakespearean theatre made use of male actors for both male and female characters—The Two Gentlemen of Verona, performed by the Judith Shakespeare Company, offers a tongue-in-cheek take on the original style: cross-dressing.
While the script stays true to the original Shakespearean text, the performance of The Two Gentlemen of Verona is brimming with ingenious surprises. All men in the play don skirts and exaggerated corsets over their t-shirts, while the women are dressed in button-down shirts and ties. Adding to the satire is the cast’s dramatic, intense line delivery and comedic use of pop culture allusions (most notably, the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air handshake). The unique versatility of the performance is both its merit and its downfall. The Two Gentlemen of Verona is studded with great satirical, slapstick, and classic theatrical elements, which stand strongly on their own. However, the consecutive incorporation of so many tactics loses its freshness by the first half of the three-hour long play.
The juxtapositions of distinctly urban culture with Shakespearean style and sharp wit with classic drama—though individually clever and poignant—clash and muddle when used in conjunction. The Two Gentlemen of Verona is similarly unbalanced in execution, leaving viewers overwhelmed and unsatisfied.
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”: