Two Gentlemen of Verona
One of the hallmarks of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival is its insistence on reinterpreting the original settings of the Bard's works in most of its productions. Such attempts require sensitivity to the complexities of the plot and culture of the original play and the knowledge to match these with compatible eras. Most of the time it doesn't work, so when it does, as is the case of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival's Two Gentlemen of Verona, the results are thrilling and unexpected.
Local director Jane Page, whose work has premiered regionally across the country, chooses to set this roller coaster comedy in a New Jersey amusement park, which offers no end to the fun house metaphors and side show hyperbole that are part and parcel of the carnival of love.
Page's comfort with the bard's language also shows through in the physical clarity given to the text by her players. While there is some debate in esoteric circles over the authenticity of this type of gesturing, in my book it makes the 400 year old language more accessible for modern audiences and undeniably gives it relevancy.
Kyle Haden and Daniel Larlham, as Valentine and Proteus, the young men of Verona of the title, handle the nuances of best friends and rival lovers with ease, and are particularly delightful in a 50's style love ballad straight off the pop charts. Erin Moon and Gloria Biegler, as Julia and Silvia, are thoroughly captivating as the clear thinking and fetching love interests besieged by the hormone-addled males.
Yet, as always in Shakespearean comedy, even with excellent principals it is the fools and clowns, in this case Speed and Lance (with his dog Crab), (need I say more about this linguistic combination?), the Mutt and Jeff and Mutt team of Chip Persons, Aaron Munoz, and Mountie (a real mutt) that put these playful shenanigans over the top. Persons' and Munoz' timing is right on the money, and Mountie is delightfully morose and dog-faced throughout, yet responsive to every command.
If Two Gentlemen of Verona is any indication, this year's Colorado Shakespeare Festival promises to be delightful. It runs in repertory with King Lear, As You Like It, and Queen Margaret (an adaptation of Henry VI, Parts I, II, and III) through August 25th. 303-492-0554.