Attending a production at the New American Shakespeare Tavern is always a unique experience. Not only do you see a stage inspired by Shakespeare’s own Globe Theatre, but you are also able to sample British pub food before the show. To accent this casual atmosphere, the actors interact with the audience in places throughout the performance.
After being the first company in America to produce all of Shakespeare’s works in their entirety, the Tavern is attempting the feat again. In this second attempt, called the Shakespeare Evolution Series, they are producing them in order as they are believed to have been written, starting with the comedies. First in the series, Two Gentlemen of Verona provides a night of hilarity and brilliant acting performances.
Believed to be the first comedy written by Shakespeare, the play features an absurd plotline and is often not considered one of his greatest plays. The story of two friends, the play follows Valentine and Proteus from Verona to Milan as they vie for the affection of the same woman, leaving Proteus’ love, Julia, scorned after she follows him to Milan disguised as a boy. Director Laura Cole has crafted a production that rises above the play’s weaknesses and shines a spotlight on incredible talent.
Kenneth Wigley, as Valentine, delivers a strong performance as one of the leading players, who falls in love with the same woman as Proteus. Wigley provides a youthful charm that swoons the audience and entices the necessary empathy to make Proteus’ manipulative actions even more treacherous when he has him banished. On the other hand, Jonathan Horne provides an uneven performance as Proteus that is often overshadowed by the other actors on the stage. As Julia, Amee Vyas shines as the love-scorned lady.
The crowd-pleasing performances of the night belong to Matt Felten, as Valentine’s servant Speed, and Daniel Parvis, as Proteus’ servant Launce. Bringing sharp comedic timing and wit, each actor provides a brilliant performance. The star of the show, however, is not one of the actors, but a dog. This well-behaved dog steals the show with her silent, deadpan performance that is integrated well with Parvis’ antics.
While it may be one of Shakespeare’s lesser plays, Two Gentlemen of Verona offers an evening of high-quality entertainment, and it is sure to have you laughing. It plays in repertory with The Taming of the Shrew and The Comedy of Errors through October 2. For specific dates and more information about tickets, please visit the New American Shakespeare Tavern’s website.
– Kenny Norton