The Globe’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona, capping off its 2014 Summer Shakespeare Festival, is a triumph of al fresco fun. The production directed by Mark Lamos on the open-air Lowell Davies Festival stage is a 95-minute-long (with no intermission) joyride that never lags. Measured against the Globe’s earlier summer Shakespeare offering, Othello, it is pure fluff, of course. But you’d have to be a complete curmudgeon not to enjoy this beguiling comedy. It’s got it all: bright, meticulous Renaissance costumes by Linda Cho, John Arnone’s elevated scenery, modeled after oil paintings and frescoes from the Italian Renaissance period, and a spirited cast that is having as good a time as the audience. There’s even a crowd-pleasing (and very capably performing) dog that gets deserved stage time, a lab/German Shorthaired Pointer mix who plays Crab with soulful eyes and wagging tail.
Adam Kantor and Hubert Point-Du Jour are Proteus and Valentine, the two gentlemen – and best friends – around home Shakespeare’s romp about love, betrayal and forgiveness revolves. Kantor has the more expressive role, as the fickle and scheming Proteus, though he’s upstaged when paired with the gifted comedienne Kristin Villanueva, playing Julia, Proteus supposed true love. Supposed because he instantly falls in love at the sight of Valentine’s heartthrob, the stunning and dignified Silvia (Britney Coleman). Some may wonder why Valentine, noble that he is, would so easily forgive his unfaithful pal Valentine by story’s end, but he is, remember, a gentlemen with all the decorum that connotes. Besides that, it’s a comedy, so lighten up.
In between the courtships and romantic wooing are the droll musings of Proteus’ servant Launce (Richard Ruiz), who is accompanied by the aforementioned canine, Crab, and often by Valentine’s wacky servant Speed (Rusty Ross). As if all that isn’t enough, when Valentine is banished midway through the action by Silvia’s father, the Duke (Mark Pinter), he is recruited by a band of Robin Hood-like outlaws wielding bows and arrows. Throw in some original music (by Fitz Patton) and the requisite festive dancing and you’ve got summertime Shakespeare as charming as it can be.
David L. Coddon is theater critic for San Diego CityBeat