“Two Gentlemen of Verona” is this summer’s Shakespeare in the Park offering. The Myriad Gardens is a delightful setting for the show. “Two Gentlemen of Verona” is an uncommon comedy and one of Shakespeare’s earlier plays. Proteus, a typically self-absorbed young man is sent to Milan following in the footsteps of his friend Valentine. Proteus is loath to leave his lady love, Julia yet leave he must. Once in Milan he discovers that his friend Valentine has fallen in love with the beautiful Sylvia so he promptly falls for Sylvia himself and completely forgets his precious Julia.
The four main characters are typically vacant, and well done by Kyle Whalen as Proteus, Suzanne Stanley as Julia, and Brad Brockman as Valentine with Victoria Hines as Sylvia. These fine young actors do a great deal of justice to the comedy; however the plum roles are those wonderful Shakespearean characters.
Shane McClure plays Antonio, father to Proteus, and later Eglamour a widowed nobleman of Milan. His interpretation has just the right touch and he is a joy to watch particularly as Eglamour where his humor and expressiveness make the performance a delight. Launce is the rather unusual servant to Proteus and Jon Hacque gives the audience a rousing good time with the role. He is assisted by Molly who portrays the faithful dog Crab. Molly is a participant in the Oklahoma Humane Society foster program and her foster parent is Jon Hacque. Hacque is fortunate to foster such a talented four-legged actor. Hal Kohlman brings the Duke of Milan into a very realistic and enjoyable focus and David Fletcher-Hall is wonderful as Speed, servant to Valentine. Anna Holloway is a wonderful outlaw and a great maid to Julia. She also distinguishes these characters subtly and comfortably from her cameo role as the innkeeper in Milan. Mason Pain is Thurio, rival to Valentine who is deceptively devious. Josh Henry is Panthino, who advises Antonio and he seems to have a perfect hidden agenda.
Director Kathryn McGill stages the production delightfully. The set is wonderfully simple. The costumes by Robert Pittenridge suggest the roaring twenties as the time period. The women’s costuming in particular seems to be modern retro, universalizing the time frame. However the four main characters are extremely naïve and the costumes reflect a more sophisticated era.
In this production the play opens with Julia singing a song which seems a little off-putting although it is lovely. This introduction, intended to set up the play is, instead, upsetting the flow. However once into the body of the script everything picks up beautifully.
The veteran character actors have such plum roles they nearly steal the show from the principals! Because Whalen, Stanley, Brockman and Hines have a strong enough presence to keep that from occurring the play instead works wonderfully.
Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park presents “Two Gentlemen of Verona” through June 30, 2012. Curtain is 8:00pm Thursday, Friday and Saturday. For further information visit www.oklahomashakespeare.com or call 405-235-3700. Don’t forget that Shakespeare is fun, and these actors follow Director McGill in having fun making us laugh.