“Two Gentlemen of Verona” with Shakespeare Sports Theatre
Review by Showtones lead reviewer, MAX BERRY
Telling the classic Shakespeare tale of friends, Valentine (Byron Hagan) and Proteus (Ramon Guzman) both in love with lady of Milan, Sylvia, played by Stephanay Slade (despite Proteus having proclaimed his love for another back home) and how they try to win her, the Shakespeare Sports Theatre takes a minimalist approach to the piece, dressed in mostly blacks and dawning long scrolls to read off of, the company puts Shakespeare’s text on full display.
The cast spoke the language with a smooth naturalness that allowed for their lively performances to shine. Byron Hagan and Ramon Guzman as Valentine and Proteus respectively proved to be a great pairing on stage, playing off of each other from the first scene. Hagan played Valentine’s shift in philosophy half way through the play to great comedic affect.
The overall performances were very well done, however, two that stood out as some of the most entertaining, were Matt Tiemstra as Speed and Roger Stude as Launce. Both actors playing the comedic servant in very different ways. Tiemstra’s Speed is quick witted and obnoxious. Whereas Studes’s Launce is slower and not very smart. Each had me laughing whenever they were on stage. Such comedic timing with such complex language requires an intense understanding of the source material and it is clear that these two were well seasoned in the style.
One of the things that was both an advantage and a disadvantage to this production was the very space it was performed in. Being outside in the park allows for a much wider range of space to play in. There are rocks, steps, trees, even the audience themselves, all around making the world of the play feel more real. However, this large amount of space also means that sound can easily escape as well as be muffled out by the noisy New York sounds that we hear every day. As a result, some scenes were hard to hear.
Another unfortunate result of this setting is the limits it set on effects. For the most part, this was not a problem, the production was very minimalist (which worked to its advantage), however, a chase scene towards the end of the show felt a little off due to either the lack of energy or lack of musical underscoring. Such a comedic moment, without music or the benefits of a backstage to make the chase seem to be continuous felt strange and slow. Though this was the only moment that really pulled me out.
Shakespeare Sports Theatre’s “Two Gentlemen of Verona” was a great minimalist production with actors demonstrating skill in both the language and comedic timing. Utilizing the park setting, they created a production that was definitely worth sitting in the park for.
“Two Gentlemen of Verona” is directed by Carrie Isaacman
It features Mary J. Price, Byron Hagan, Matt Tiemstra, Roger Stude, Stephanay Slade, Carrie Issaacman, Joe Crow, Jeffrey Copelan, Ramon Guzman, and Adam Joesten
Upcoming shows on October 20th at Athens Park in Astoria and October 27th at Summit Rock at 2:30PM