Observation of a Production of Shakespeare's The Two Gentlemen of Verona
The Two Gentlemen of Verona
Shakespeare Bulletin Review
Presented by ILLINOIS SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL at WESTHOFF THEATRE, Normal. IL. July 3-August 5, 1994. Directed by Calvin MacLean. Set and lighting by Kent Goetz. Costumes by Dan Wilhelm. Sound and music by Rick Peeples. Choreography by Connie de Veer. Fights by John Sipes. With Darrel Ford (Speed). Keytha Graves (Julia), Ted deChatelet (Proteus). Brian Herriott (Valentine), David Kortemeier (Antonio, Outlaw), Robert Kropf (Launce), Philip Thompson (Thurio), Patrice Wilson (Silvia). Randy Reinholz (Panthino, Eglamour), Steve Young (Duke of Milan), Timothy F. Griffin (Host), Jason Maher (Outlaw), Meredith Templeton (Lucetta), Isaac Triska (Outlaw), and others.
By Justin Shaltz
In this production of The Two Gentlemen of Verona, major characters are introduced as they participate in different sporting events. While each vignette is frolicsome, one individual in each is revealed to be rather competitive. The play opens with a spirited fencing match between Proteus and Valentine, both dressed in white and wearing dancing masks. Proteus is the more aggressive combatant, as he will be the more aggressive romancer, pushing Valentine backward and pursuing him. Julia and Lucetta make their subsequent appearance with bow and arrow, taking turns shooting at a large onstage archery target. Lucetta punctuates her verbal points about love and romance with resounding accurate arrow-shots. Then Antonio is seen practising his putting on a make-shift green while chatting with an obsequious and heavily-oiled Panthino. While Antonio laboriously readies himself for a simple putt, crouched low over a golf ball, Panthino holds a parasol over his head. Antonio's decisions concerning the lives of the young people around him seem trifling, secondary to his inept golf game. Lastly, Speed appears as if within the gymnasium of Valentine's health club. He tries to hold the heavy bag steady while his frustrated master punches at it. Speed is overwhelmed by the physical exertion, brokenly shouting his lines.
Director Calvin MacLean connects these opening images of leisure games with the later romantic antics of the male protagonists. Romance is approached as if just another frivolous game, conducted with selfish disregard for consequences and wounded feelings.
The set is dark green and violet. with a grasslike surface and thickly entwining vines higher up. Purple buds and flowers abound on the vines, and pairs of putti are visible within the foliage, peering down upon the romantic farce. The period is pre-World War I Italy. Jaunty piano music plays during interludes and set changes, contributing to the whimsical atmosphere, as do a variety of clever staging techniques. For example, a baby grand piano, central to the 2.5 ballroom scene, is simply turned around to become the roulette and gaming table of the Duke's private 3.1 party.