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Teen Critic: Two Gents, Review 3

About the Program

Designed for high school students interested in journalism and/or critical writing, the Teen Critic Program at Shakespeare Theatre Company teaches students how to view theatrical productions with a critical eye and how to write an informed comprehensive theatre review.

Teen Critics will be invited to the Press Night for each production (two complimentary tickets per production), receive a press packet, preferred press seating and will have the opportunity to meet with professional theatre critics from local newspapers and members of Shakespeare Theatre Company staff to learn about how to write an effective theatre review.

After seeing each show, Teen Critics will write a review and submit it to the Shakespeare Theatre Company Education Department (due one week after Press Night).  STC education staff will work with the Teen Critic to make revisions and then the review will be published in a school newspaper or online.

Two Bros of Verona

by Jenny Rossberg (Langley High School)

Flashy, elaborate metal scaffolding, huge, light-up logos, iPhones, skateboards and a plush purple couch are not usually the first things that come to mind when one imagines a Shakespeare play, unless, perhaps, you are director PJ Paparelli. In the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s latest production, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Paparelli has ingeniously blended modern pop culture with one of Shakespeare’s early comedies, brilliantly conveying the timelessness of teen love and angst and creating a riotous show mocking the troubles of both.

The play’s set (designed by Walt Spangler) is worthy of a Broadway musical: multi-layered metal scaffolding sparkles under the stage lights (designed by Howell Binkley) and provides a diverse, three-dimensional playground for actors, holding everything from a brief balcony scene to a thrilling roof-top chase. Off to the left is a sofa so big, so fuzzy and so purple that only a teenage girl could love it, while to the right of the stage is an enormous glowing Apple icon. The background displays a massive red “Campari” and half of McDonald’s golden arches. At first, the effect was rather nerve-racking; how was anyone going to make such a stylized, contemporary set part of a Shakespearean comedy? Then suddenly the theatre darkens, a screen drops and lights spell out the words setting the scene: “Verona. An open street. Afternoon. Or that’s what Shakespeare wrote. It was really more like Suburbia.  Parking Lot. 11 PM Friday night. Yeah.” And it only got better from there.

Opening upon an image of drunken teenage horseplay, STC introduces the main characters of The Two Gentlemen of Verona—both wearing doublets and skinny jeans—Valentine (Andrew Veenstra), a longhaired youth who scorns love and mocks his best friend for being so indulged with it, and Proteus (Nick Dillenburg), the lovesick friend. The two part ways when Valentine goes to Milan and falls for the already-betrothed Silvia (Natalie Mitchell) and Proteus stays behind to be with his love, Julia (Miriam Silverman). Veenstra did an excellent job playing the star-crossed youth, one second angry at his servant for teasing him about his love, the next, blushingly stuttering to Silvia. When Proteus’s father sends him to Milan, he quickly forgets all about his girl back home in favor of Valentine’s new sweetheart. You can see how things would get complicated. As Proteus attempts to jerk around with his best friend’s relationship, Dillenburg successfully portrays him as a devil-may-care jock. Julia decides to follow her so-called boyfriend and disguises herself as a boy, trading in her emo-girl black and purple gown for a set of slacks. Silverman’s performance is comical and emotional, making one laugh at Julia’s passion and sympathize with her heartache. By the time she arrives in Milan, and meets Silvia, whom Mitchell makes out to be a clean-cut rich girl wearing lots of pink and big pearls, things between Valentine and Proteus are starting to turn into fights-to-the-death.

The Two Gentlemen of Verona in many ways was more like a movie than a play. It featured awesome things that seemed more like cinematic special effects than theatre props, including vomit, blood, alcohol, cigarettes, cell phones, guns and a karaoke bar, as well as several flawlessly choreographed fist fights (directed by Paul Dennhardt). One servant, Speed (Adam Green), rode around on a skateboard, and another, Launce (Euan Morton), wore a hoodie and sneakers and proudly toted around his adorable, flop-eared dog, Crab. In other ways, though, Two Gents was more of a musical; characters sang karaoke at the old alehouse, and loud rock music blasted between scene transitions. The music composed by Fabian Obispo did a good job of conveying the feelings of characters and combining Shakespeare with a modern high school twist, such as when Valentine bangs out his woes about losing Silvia and being exiled on an electric keyboard.

By the end of the play, The Two Gentlemen of Verona had audiences gasping with surprise and splitting their sides with laughter. During intermission, comments like, “Well, the music’s not Shakespeare, but it seems to be working,” or “It does bring in a certain relevance,” could be heard. Immensely entertaining and splendidly relatable, The Two Gentlemen of Verona is a must-see, particularly for those stubborn high school kids who still claim they don’t like Shakespeare.

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