Pat Launer, Center Stage on KSDS JAZZ88
August 22, 2014
Betrayal, forgiveness – and the many ways love makes you kind of crazy.
Since “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” may not be Shakespeare’s wisest or wittiest work, it isn’t seriously harmed by being trimmed down to a sleek, 95 intermissionless minutes.
At the Old Globe, guest director Mark Lamos keeps the action lively, though there are some slow spots even in this brisk production. In the beautifully lit, whimsical, 2-D storybook set, houses are piled up on a hillside and pastoral trees rotate to become forest-dark and ominous.
Though there’s little distinction between Verona and Milan, the Elizabethan costumes in both cities are stunning, with bright red pantaloons for the titular men, sumptuous gowns for the women, garish getups for the suitors — even a ruff collar for the supposedly “sour-natured” dog, Crab, played by well-behaved and irresistible Khloe Jezbera , a black lab mix who steals every scene she’s in, even though her goofy master, Launce, should be getting all the laughs.
As the two gents of the title, these best buds have an easy rapport and appealing physicality. Hubert Point-Du- Jour’s Valentine has a regal elegance, as does Britney Coleman as his beloved, Silvia. By contrast, Adam Kantor as Proteus and Kristin Villanueva, as Julia, his main squeeze, seem far more impetuous and adolescent.
Proteus is a famously tricky character. Protean and erratic, for sure. He’s madly in love with Julia at the outset, professing undying devotion to her and to his BFF, Valentine. But the minute Proteus lays eyes on his friend’s fiancée, Silvia, he brashly begins to betray his bestie and abandon his beloved. His plotting and machinations are underhanded and self-serving, to say the least. We won’t even mention the attempted rape.
Comedies are supposed to end with a wedding. But after all he’s done, does Proteus really deserve to be forgiven by Valentine and taken back by Julia? In an enchantingly enigmatic final moment, all eyes are on Proteus – which adds a titillating frisson of doubt.
“The Two Gentlemen of Verona” runs through September 14, on the Old Globe’s Festival Stage.
©2014 PAT LAUNER