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Theatre Review: Two Gentlemen of Verona

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(Sacramento, CA)
Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Table-servers in trim aprons, pouring wine by the glass in breezy bistros… that's the setting for director Charlie Fee's production, which introduces Shakespeare's two young bucks as well-heeled college guys with time on their hands, cash in their pockets, and a preoccupation with romance. In fact, these guys can't stop talking about women.

Valentine: "Now can I break my fast, dine, sup and sleep, upon the very naked name of love!"

Proteus: "Enough."

Naturally, they both regard their momentary sweethearts as heavenly creatures.

Valentine: "If not divine, yet let her be a principality, sovereign to all the creatures on the earth."

Proteus: "Except my mistress."

Valentine: "Sweet, except not any."

These two guys sing the praises of their ladies like a competition sport.

But then there is the clownish manservant Launce, who can't stop complaining about his homely mutt, who follows him onstage.

Launce: "I think Crab, my dog, be the sourest natured dog that lives."

And right away, the dog steals the scene, with nothing more than a pink tongue and a wagging tail.

Launce: "In all our house in a great perplexity yet did not this cruel hearted cur shed a tear." (laughter)

Ah, the dog gets 'em, every time. But this comedy about lovesick guys and a sad-eyed pooch soon turns serious, when one of the gentlemen makes a play for the other fella's girl, and does some dirty deeds to sink his erstwhile friend. A tragic outcome looms, and it's only a last minute miracle that salvages a nominally happy ending.
This problematic finale has long been regarded as a flaw in Shakespeare's otherwise lighthearted, symmetrical script. But director Charlie Fee takes a more measured view… after all, in college, didn't you know a guy who made an ill-advised overture to his roommate's girlfriend? Human nature hasn't really changed. 
This production asserts, with some success, that "Two Gentlemen of Verona" is not only funny in the first half, but the play also deserves some respect for the way it ends.
The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival presents Two Gentlemen of Verona through August 26th at Sand Harbor.
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