Two Gentlemen of Verona
published: Fri, 6-Feb-2004 | updated: Wed, 4-Jan-2017
The Duke of Milan in Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare for Theatreworks on the lawns at UCCS, alfresco. Directed by Will Pomerantz. August 1996.
We were outside on the lawns at UCCS (University of Colorado, Colorado Springs) by the library block (the library block has now been extended, so the place where we did the show is now occupied by a building). There was an open set built there, with, if I recall correctly, two towers, one either end. The performance was done in the open air, so if it rained, it was called off. Of course, if it rained beforehand but the sky was clear at the start of the performance, we went ahead, slipping on the wet grass. It was free, and if the audience had any sense they'd bring something waterproof to sit on, a bottle of wine to drink, and blankets for when the sun went down and it got colder.
For one of the performances, the rain suddenly came down about 15 minutes before the end. We gathered the audience together and finished the play inside in the Library hallway. Very cramped, us and the audience together, but we finished and the audience appreciated both it and how we coped with squeezing through them to perform.
The director (who was from outside Colorado Springs) had this vision of setting the play as if there was a bicycle race going on, like the Tour de France. Well, at least that's how each performance started: the heroes, the two Gents, were in a race and they were cycling around the grass and paths round the audience. I, as Duke, even had my own bike, a stationary exercise bike at the top of one of the towers.
It was a fun show to be in, even though it was the first time I played the dad of the heroine, and I've joked that the only Shakespeare parts I've had since have been fathers. I think that this was the last Shakespeare production they did outside -- or there may have been one more -- the rain and wind problem meant that too many performances had to be cancelled. They got a huge tent in the end.
|Lucetta||Elsie Ly Escobar|
Review from the Gazette Telegraph
Excellence outweighs blemishes in 'Gentlemen'
Both the production and the play contain a lot that's excellent and a little that's awful; fortunately, what's excellent is far more important.
The play is one of Shakespeare's earliest, and shows an unpolished playwright bursting with talent. The story concerns two young couples - Proteus and Julia, and Valentine and Silvia - and the soap opera that ensues when Proteus falls in love with Silvia. The dialogue glitters with wit, and emotions are plentiful though seldom deep (Julia's final soliloquy is an exception). Unfortunately, Shakespeare hadn't yet mastered plots, so the play suffers from its unsatisfying, perfunctory ending.
If there's no way to make the ending of "Gentlemen" really good, Will Pomerantz's staging makes it almost plausible, proving that he's a fine director.
It's more than enough to offset some directorial gaucheries, such as the fact that this production has absolutely no sense of time.
The leads in this production of "Gentlemen" are perfectly matched: Eric Bosse is flawless as the scoundrel Proteus, Antoinette LaVecchia is deeply moving as Julia, Richard Robichaux is fresh-faced and earnest as Valentine, and Stephanie Cozart is charming as Silvia.
But what makes this production especially enjoyable is that so many of the minor roles are memorably portrayed. Danny Bristol steals a couple of scenes as Proteus' idiotic servant Launce, playing him almost like Red Skelton's Clem Kadiddlehopper. Christian Garcia shines as Valentine's servant, the clever, greedy Speed. Joe Marshall's melodrama background is perfect for the cloddish Thurio, Silvia's suitor. Julian Bucknall is marvelously regal as the duke of Milan.
But on the technical side, the production is seriously flawed. Set designer Richard Young and Pomerantz appear not to have been on the same page with regard to blocking. While Young's austere white set allows seating on two sides across from each other, Pomerantz has blocked the play almost entirely toward one side. (If you go, sit on the hillside for the best view.)
Putting lights on both sides of the stage pretty much assures that they'll be in the audience's eyes a good deal of the time. And the microphones in this outdoor production amplify everything - not just the dialogue.
Finally, the play's "gimmick" - the bicycles that the characters often tote around - is a bust. They're not integrated into the story in any way, and while they're less distracting than the motorcycles that Proteus and Valentine rode around on in the Boulder production two years ago, they're cumbersome props.
(c) Gazette Telegraph 1996