The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0989 Friday, 11 June 1999.
Date: Thursday 10 Jun 1999 21:01:50 -0400
Subject: Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival's Two Gentlemen from Verona
The CSF's production of Two Gents, directed by Michael Burnham and Khris
Lewin, opened on June 3, to a very enthusiastic audience. "Q" once
quipped that this play should be called "No Gentlemen in Verona," and
the present production might well have that title. The production is
set vaguely in the 1950s, though Jon Kamholtz, who sat on my right hand
opening night, felt that it was set in the CFS Never-Never-Land. In any
case, the costumes were bright and snazzy, the kind of thing I used to
wear a half century ago.
The Oxford editors date TGV 1590-91, and date Taming of the Shrew in the
same year. But watching this play, even directed and performed as
crisply as it was by CSF, I felt that the script must be early, one of
Shakespeare's first plays, if not the first. The play moves from duet
to monologue, and the script seems unable to realize the complexity of,
say, the final scene of Taming. Why not date it some time in the 1580s?
I talked with Michael Burnham, the senior director, after opening
night. (We were drinking champagne, rather than zin. I note this for
John Drakakis, who likes to know what I'm drinking and when.) Michael
said that both directors felt that Valentine and Proteus are gay, but
that the actors, Matthew Humphreys (Val) and Nicholas Rose (Proteus),
felt that they are straight. The mixed messages worked perfectly in
creating a complexly homo-heterosexual pair of "just friends."
This production ended much as contemporary productions of Measure for
Measure end: Silvia (Marni Penning) and Julia (Deb Heinig) are silenced
and isolated. Silvia, who is almost raped by Proteus, is down stage
clinging to a pillar with a genuinely horrified look on her face, where
Silvia joins her. Valentine, Proteus, and Silvia's father are totally
oblivious of the traumatized women. The three gents go off, arm in arm,
singing a Neil Young song, with "Tulsa" changed to "Verona."
Valentine's final words of reconciliation are cancelled by the action.
The production runs through June 27. I recommend it. For more
information, call (513)-381-BARD, or FAX (513)-381-2298.
Yours, Bill Godshalk