Two Gentlemen of Verona

Directed by Andy Lord

Show Dates: 2013

Friday, December 6th: 8:00pm
Saturday, December 7th: 8:00pm
Sunday, December 8th: 2:00 Matinee

Thursday, December 12: 8:00pm
Friday, December 13: 8:00pm
Saturday, December 14th: 8:00pm

The Two Gentlemen of Verona is widely considered Shakespeare’s earliest comedy but includes many of the same elements we recognize from his later plays – cross-dressing disguises, madcap comic servants, witty banter and absurd love triangles. Young Proteus bids a tearful goodbye to Verona and his love Julia to join his lifelong friend Valentine in service of the Duke of Milan, where he immediately falls in love with Valentine’s beloved, Silvia. Julia, disguised as a boy, travels to Milan and is employed as Proteus’ page, where she finds herself in the unenviable position of being the liaison between her boyfriend and his new girlfriend. It’s mayhem, mixups and classical comedy, directed by long-time Prenzie veteran, Andy Lord.

 Cast list

 

QC Online Review

Prenzie full of passion, adventure in ‘Verona
By Jonathan Turner, jturner@qconline.com

There is much to love in the passionate new production of Shakespeare’s “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” fromPrenzie Players.

Kicking off their 12th season, the Prenzies open with the Bard’s first play — believed to have been written between 1589 and 1592 — which includes many elements theatergoers recognize from his later, more famous plays, such as cross-dressing disguises, madcap comic servants, witty banter and absurd love triangles.

Like much of Shakespeare, the story and characters are bursting with life and emotion, with nothing held back.

In the light, breezy “Two Gentlemen,” young Proteus bids goodbye to Verona and his love, Julia, to join his lifelong friend Valentine in service of the Duke of Milan, where he immediately falls in love with Valentine’s beloved, Silvia. Romantic and bromantic chaos ensues, naturally. Julia, disguised as a boy, travels to Milan and is employed as Proteus’ page, where she finds herself in the position of being the liaison between her boyfriend and his new girlfriend. Awkward.

As with many exhilarating Prenzie re-interpretations, the actors are in fairly modern dress (I really like Stephanie Moeller as the page Speed in an Annie Hall-like ensemble with sneakers, vest, tie and beret), but maintain the rapid-fire original dialogue.

With “Two Gents,” we’ve not only got the intertwining love’s labors of the titular young guys and the fiery, outspoken objects of their affection, but there’s a difficult, demanding father, a nerdy rival, a band of three crazy, sword-wielding outlaws, a maiden held in a tower, and a clownish, perceptive servant and his dog (who fetches the show along with some frequent treats from his master).

Cole McFarren, as the appropriately named Valentine, and Joey Curtiss as Proteus are convincing as best buds, in thrall to the vagaries and whims of youthful ardor. Ms. Moeller gives infectious, apt energy to the scampering Speed, with quick wit and sage advice for Proteus.

Shakespeare gives us hints that all’s not well that ends with Proteus and his girl, Julia — a stunning Maggie Woolley. In an early scene with her maid, Lucetta (a strong Kitty Israel), a conflicted Julia is concerned Proteus doesn’t show his love, but when she gets a letter from him, she rips it up, then regrets it. With her flowing blonde locks, Ms. Woolley is high-strung, sensitive and mesmerizing to watch.

In Milan, both Valentine and Proteus fall for the spirited Silvia, played by a red-haired Catie Osborn. Unlike the other three impetuous main characters, the skeptical, good-hearted Silvia seems the only one with common sense. Ms. Osborn brings an unpretentious, down-to-earth honesty to the role.

As daughter of the Duke of Milan, Silvia’s hand is very valuable, and she’s also pursued by Turio (called a “foolish suitor”), played with a winning “how did I get in to this mess” charm by Andy Curtiss. Tracy Skaggs is authoritative, scheming and threatening as the grand Duke.

Proteus is equally conflicted (between Julia and Silvia), and Joey Curtiss brings a sympathetic nature to his internal debate.

As Proteus’s servant Lance, Adam Michael Lewis runs away with the play with his trademark neurotic, frazzled demeanor. It helps that he’s carrying along the crabby (but very cute) dog Crab, played with innocent, eager canine charisma by the extravagantly named Sgt. Leon Maxwell Edison VonPepper.

Mr. Lewis keeps the mutt on task, and corrals a female audience member on stage at one point for a funny scene. Mr. Lewis is always relatable, even when the poetic words he says are more than 400 years old.

The equally amusing Andy Koski has triple duty as the smug, confident Antonio (father to Proteus), the flamboyant Latin lover Eglamore in Milan, and an outlaw. With Ms. Israel and Denise Yoder, the trio of enthusiastic outlaws have fun with swords, and recruit Valentine to join them. Ms. Yoder has an especially delicious bit lusting after Mr. McFarren.

This adventurous trip to Verona and Milan — directed by Andy Lord and the cast — is well worth taking. For more information on the company, visit prenzieplayers.com.

 

QC Times Review
Prenzie’s ‘Verona’ produces hearty laughs
By David Burke

The intentionally over-the-top “Complete Works …” aside, “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” produces the heartiest and most frequent laughs I’ve seen yet from the Prenzie Players.

That’s all thanks to a balance of physical comedy with the Shakespeare script, the on-target delivery by a bevy of performers, audience interaction, and a man and his dog.

Director Andy Lord guides what is mostly a briskly paced production, played out in the length of the Q-C Theatre Workshop space in Davenport. The plot of love triangles, mistaken identities and disguise could get into a tangled mess, but the dozen cast members easily navigate through it to a satisfying ending.

There are many standout performances, but the two that peak above the rest are Catie Osborn as Silvia, the daughter of a duke (played by Tracy Skaggs) and courted by Valentine (Cole McFarren). The other is from Adam Michael Lewis, a constant scene-stealer as Lance, a servant to Proteus (Joey Curtiss), and the caretaker of Crab the dog, played by Sgt. Leon Maxwell Edison VonPepper.

Both Osborn and Lewis have the rare talent of making the Shakespeare script sound like casual conversation, with the little tics and pauses that go into the way we talk most of the time.

Osborn is poised, relaxed and sultry as Silvia, who is given the princess treatment while she’s in the castle tower (the best part of Matt Moody’s set design) and gets to wear the loveliest of Kate Farence’s costume designs.

With innate comedic timing, Lewis rollicks through his role, involving the audience despite having to play second banana to his canine companion  at times. The Saturday night performance included some well-timed whimpers and barks by Crab in the direction of certain other cast members, and Lewis is at the ready if the dog goes astray.

Other fine performances come from Maggie Woolley, joyous and later forlorn as Proteus’ intended, Julia; Stephanie Moeller, absolutely adorkable as Valentine’s page, Speed; Skaggs as the Duke of Milan; and Andy Curtiss as Silvia’s would-be suitor, Turio, constantly plunked away by the object of his affections.

Kitty Israel, Denise Yoder and Andy Koski play eight roles between them, but the ones that garner the most laughs are when they play a band of outlaws engaging in extremely slapstick swordplay. Koski’s Eglamore, a suitor of Julia, produces an accident that deliciously blends Antonio Banderas’ “Puss in Boots” character from the “Shrek” movies with the Fenstrunk Brothers of vintage “SNL” fame.

The two title characters, McFarren’s Valentine and Joey Curtiss’ Proteus, remain solid even though they are saddled with some of the least colorful roles in the script.

As a first-time director, Lord doesn’t add much to Prenzie’s bag of tricks, but he still provides solid, enjoyable entertainment.

Prenzies’ “Verona” satisfies both ends of the Shakespeare spectrum. It gives a very humorous entry point for Bard novices and, at least judging from the group of fellow Prenzies at the show I viewed, heartily fulfilling for those who know their Shakespeare and can appreciate a few of the in-jokes that Lord and the cast pop into play.

 

Italian Beefs: “The Two Gentlemen of Verona,” at the QC Theatre Workshop through December 15
River Cities Reader Review
by Thom White

The women of The Two Gentlemen of Veronashine in the Prenzie Players’ latest production. Maggie Woolley’s effervescent Julia and Catie Osborn’s enrapturing Silvia – characters courted by the two gentlemen of the title – are especially captivating, thanks to Woolley’s and Osborn’s layered portrayals of ladies in (and later out of, and then back in) love. They’re among a group of female actors here that offer dynamic, entertaining performances filled with notable nuance, aplomb, and, when called for, titillating humor. And they are a credit to director Andy Lord’s vision for what seems to me one of William Shakespeare’s weaker, less refined plays. The women help add emotional depth to the text, while Lord wisely places the comedic aspects of the tale at the forefront through his cast’s energetic performances.

The men don’t deserve to be ignored, though. As the titular characters, Cole McFarren is every bit a stately gentleman as Valentine, while Joey Curtiss offers a relatively youthful Proteus less jaded by life’s experiences. While Curtiss, to the detriment of his deliveries, did tend to (attempt to) speak some of his longer lines all in one breath during Friday’s performance, his Proteus is presented as less dramatically dark than simply realistic. As a result, Proteus’ decision to forsake his newfound love Julia for Valentine’s true love Silvia seems more a mistake of the, um, “heart,” rather than a dastardly scheme at the expense of his friends.

I must admit that I did not catch anything that Proteus’ servant Lance (Adam Michael Lewis) said during his initial scene, as I was so captivated by the dog – Sergeant Leon Maxwell Edison VonPepper – that accompanies Lance throughout the play. Judging by the steady flow of “Oh”s and “Ah”s, the scruffy canine, playing Crab the Dog, managed to win over the crowd with his unwittingly timely barking at the audience and other cast members, all the while being easily placated with treats from Lewis. Yet these barks oftentimes fell in between Lewis’ lines, as though planned, and rendered the dog’s scene-stealing ways all the more entertaining. Fortunately for Lewis, though, he also has a scene that does not include the dog, in which – with the aid of a female he plucks from the audience – he explains his list of positive and negative (-until-creatively-explained) attributes for his ideal woman. Lewis’ delivery is so believably extemporaneous that, were his lines not hilarious, the scene would still be remarkable for the actor’s sincere delivery.

As Valentine’s page Speed, Stephanie Moeller is every bit spunky and sprightly, traits I’ve found consistently enchanting in her various portrayals in past productions. While Kitty Israel is firm yet friendly as Lucetta, Julia’s waiting woman, Andy Koski portrays Proteus’ father Antonio with toughness, and Denise Yoder plays Antonio’s servant Pantina with self-assurance and dignity. Together, however, the three are most delightful as a trio of outlaws that overtakes Valentine and Speed after the former is banished by Silvia’s father for attempting to use a rope ladder to reach Silvia in a tower. Israel, Koski, and Yoder are so goofy that it’s hard not to smile throughout their scenes and buffoonish banditry.

Koski, however, outdoes his work even in those sequences while playing Eglamore, a suitor of Julia’s who later helps Silvia escape. Koski’s Eglamore, with his Latin bravado, is reminiscent of Mandy Patinkin as The Princess Bride‘s Inigo Montoya, with a dash of Antonio Banderas’ Puss in Boots (of Shrek fame) thrown in to spice things up even more. The result is a charismatic character that is utterly enjoyable. Adding Tracy Skaggs’ unforgiving and stately Duke of Milan and Andy Curtiss’ amusingly foolish suitor Turio, Lord’s cast presents Shakepeare’s The Two Gentleman of Verona in its most entertaining light.