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Shakespearean comedy on tap
BY JOHN BRANDENBURG | Published: June 19, 2012 | Modified: June 19, 2012 at 5:32 pm
There was almost “two much information” about the absurdity and blindness of love and too much forgiveness of bad behavior to be believed in an early play by William Shakespeare. Performed on Myriad Gardens Water Stage, the Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park version of “Two Gentlemen of Verona” was crudely effective — by turns romantically appealing and uproariously funny.
But it also sometimes came across as a “work-in-progress,” or rough draft, containing the germs of many concepts and characters developed more fully and satisfactorily in Shakespeare's later work.
Brad Brockman had the right hearty, foursquare quality as Valentine, who at first can't persuade his best friend to join him in leaving Verona to find love in the court of the Duke of Milan. Kyle Whalen was more multi-layered, and a “man you loved to hate,” as the best friend, Proteus, who swears love for Julia before leaving Verona, then promptly falls for the woman Valentine loves in Milan.
Playing the role with a light touch, Whalen made you almost believe in his motives as he played everyone false, including himself, and fell back in love with Julia, in the play's hard-to-swallow happy ending.
Victoria Hines played the object of both men's affection, Silvia, the daughter of the Duke of Milan, with just the right amount of passion and virtue, seasoned with more than a hint of caprice. Hal Kohlman had powerful stage presence as Silvia's cigar-chomping, loving but loose cannon father, the Duke, easily persuaded to banish her true love, then forgive him and everybody else in the finale.
Shane McClure also had some hilarious moments as the father of Proteus, pointing his hunting rifle haphazardly, and seeming to get his advisor and son confused, as he orders the latter to join Valentine in Milan.
Suzanne Stanley brought emotional warmth to the thankless part of Julia, who follows Proteus to Milan, and eventually wins him back, as well as the friendship of Silvia, disguised as a man-servant.
But if all these “upstairs,” aristocratic types, had their richly humorous and romantic vignettes, it was the “downstairs” servant types who nearly stole the show, although their antics could also be distracting.
David Fletcher-Hall was wonderfully irascible as Valentine's servant, and Jon Haque went to outrageous lengths to dramatize the love of Proteus' servant for his dog (who wasn't particularly impressed).
Filling several roles, well, with good comic timing, was Anna Holloway as Julia's maid in Verona, a hostess in Milan, and one of a roguish outlaw band in the forest, who make Valentine their leader.
Other theatrical sets included the castle-like Water Stage set, as well as excellent costumes and Jazz Age-Cole Porter era music which gave the production a strong feel of the early 1930s.
A bit of a mishmash, but a most enjoyable one, the production lasting some two and a half hours, under the direction of Kathryn McGill, is well worth attending, despite its rough edges.
— John Brandenburg