Friday, January 14, 2011

Two Gentlemen: Play Performance Review

This last Sunday, Emma and I were able to go with some friends to see the Northwest Classical Theater Company’s production of The Two Gentlemen of Verona. I thought it was pretty cool that I got to begin the year by seeing a live production of the first play I read in my brand-new Shakespeare project - serendipity indeed. And, happily, it was a good production. Let me tell you about it!
The company’s home theater is named the Shoebox, and aptly named it is - it’s a very small, intimate theater that seats no more than 40.

 This production was performed in the round with no set pieces. This worked quite well and allowed for rapid and interesting exits and entrances, and though the playing area is limited, the confident staging of this production let me forget that the forest, for example, was bounded in a space no larger than an average size living room. The closeness between the audience and the performers also allowed the players to address and interact with the spectators.Though there was no suggestion of place or time through set pieces, the very effective Elizabethan costuming provided a strong Renaissance setting.

One of the major strengths of the production was the rapid-fire pacing of the show - nothing dragged or seemed too slow. The cast was strong across the board and communicated the story well through their use of the language as well as physical humor, including a gag where the petite actress playing Julia struggled to unsheath a sword nearly as tall as she was. Especially delightful were the scenes with Launce and his dog Crab. Crab was played by a bulldog type - so ugly that he was adorable - and was one phlegmatic pooch. Ensconced in a cosily cushioned chariot and wheeled in for each of his appearances, he was the perfect foil for his weepy master’s angst and devotion.

(Poster boy for the production - Crab in his little wagon)

One mark of any good play is whether or not it makes you think, and this production hit that mark. Director Butch Flowers chose to highlight the ambiguity and unsettling aspects of the conclusion, which created a sense that the story was somewhat incomplete. However, this refusal to tidily wrap up all the loose ends into a conventional “happily ever after" certainly fostered conversation after the play about the possible implications of the ending.

(Conversation between Shakespeare girl and friends was fostered)

In all, good afternoon at the theater, and I’ll plan on going back to the Shoebox for Shakespeare's Cymbeline in the spring.

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