Review: 'The Two Gentlemen of Verona' — bromancing buddies and their gals
Seattle Shakespeare's "Two Gentlemen" has love, honor, friendship — and a few funny minutes with a dog.
Seattle Times theater critic
'The Two Gentlemen of Verona'By William Shakespeare, a Seattle Shakespeare Company production, through April 18 at Center House Theatre, Seattle Center; $22-$36 (206-733-8222 or www.seattleshakes.org).
Buddy comedies go way, way back, at least to Shakespeare's day, as evidenced by one of Will's earliest scripts, "The Two Gentlemen of Verona."
In a new Seattle Shakespeare Company production of the latter, director Marcus Goodwin links that old romp with the current, commercially hot genre of "bromance" movie comedies.
It's a neat fit — and not just because of all the opportunities for text-messaging in the tale of two fickle young pals and their two gals.
With the help of Doris Black's modern costumes and such de rigeur props as a brandished copy of "Twilight" (the best-selling vampire novel), "Two Gents" is brightly transported to a modern-day setting of palm trees, nightclubs and hot, spoiled young things hooking up.
But the show is not all about iPod and iPhone placement, amusing and apropos as that aspect is.
It's also hip to the sexual tensions between Valentine (Connor Toms) and his BFF Proteus (Daniel Brockley), and how a woman, even one they both covet, really plays second fiddle to their bond with each other.
From the top, as Valentine and Proteus exchange an intimate clinch before heading off to different cities, the sexual politics are upfront here, and intriguing. Emily Grogan's Silvia, pledged to Valentine but stalked by his friend, is no blonde bimbo. She's a spirited, insightful cookie with a moral code she won't bend — not even for a suitor as attractive and determined as the riveting Brockley's cool operator, Proteus.
In the guise of a young boy, Hana Lass as the suddenly spurned Julia fully expresses amazement and disgust over her betrayal by Proteus. (In male attire, with a fake soul patch, she's an adorable, pint-size Apolo Ohno ringer.)
The repartee in "Two" is not Shakespeare's most scintillating, and there's verbiage retained here that could be sheared and wouldn't be missed.
But the clown mischief is sturdy, and Goodwin and cohorts make merry with it. Chris Ensweiler hits his comic stride as a dumb but endearing surfer-dude version of the servant Launce. As his dog Crab, an aged, dignified bulldog called Russ performs with aplomb yet doesn't upstage. (Well, most of the time.) And the counter-servant Speed gets a humorously foppish treatment from David Goldstein.
The musical bits sample rap and hip-hop, and the video screen sports iPhone apps. One complaint: the metal tubing and tree cutouts in Jason Phillips' set interfere with some sightlines.
In the rushed end of "Two Gents," Proteus is contrite, and the original male-female pairings are restored. But Goodwin can't resist a subversive little nonverbal kicker at the end — a sly reminder that boys will be boys.
Misha Berson: firstname.lastname@example.org
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