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Teen Critic: Two Gents, Review 2

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.

Check out the first Teen Critic review of The Two Gentlemen of Verona here.

Two Gentlemen Wonderfully Captures the Essence of Youthful Mischief

by Joal Chen (Blake High School)

“Do you know where your children are tonight?” reads a teleprompter above the stage. This unspoken line perhaps best sums up PJ Paparelli’s version of Shakespeare’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona, fully embracing the chaotic youthful spirit of the play. Teenagers run wild and free through a world of consumerism, sex, booze and a serious lack of parental discipline. With the music of U2 and a truly stellar cast, the Shakespeare Theatre’s performance of Two Gentlemen enchants the audience with the universal story of friendship and betrayal.

Valentine and Proteus are two old friends with different views of love. Proteus claims to be madly in love with Julia, while Valentine, ironically, scoffs at the idea of love. That is, until he leaves Verona for Milan and falls in love with the Duke’s daughter Silvia, who is already engaged. Proteus also travels to Milan and also falls in love with Silvia, and decides to betray Valentine by telling Silvia’s father that Valentine and Silvia plan to elope. Two Gentlemen is perhaps one of Shakespeare’s more confusing plots, with characters adopting different identities and changing love interests. Though a comedy, it is full of intense personal scenes where characters are forced to make difficult decisions, which the cast performs deftly.

Perhaps the most difficult task for a director who decides to tackle a Shakespearean play is to make the plays relatable and understandable for the modern audience, while still keeping the wit and energy of the Bard’s work. Paparelli not only succeeds in this, but excels. The world Paparelli creates is very similar to the world of 2012. Teenagers are surrounded by fast food, flashy new gear, such as Apple computers, cool skateboards and sound speakers and the ever-constant presence of sex and desire.

The set, designed by Walt Spangler, first appears to the audience, before the play begins, as rough and pedestrian: pieces of metal cover the stage as if thrown on the walls. The set is complete with logos for companies like Apple and ING Banking and ads for condoms are scattered about. Throughout the play, the stage serves as a brilliant backdrop to the flashy lifestyle of Verona and Milan. The lighting, superbly done by Howell Binkley, was simply done, not distracting from the rest of the play: red for the more sensual and intense parts, while blue for the more intimate. The lighting, which was subtlety woven into the play and, along with the set, created the perfect atmosphere.

The cast was helmed by the enchanting Andrew Veenstra as Valentine and Nick Dillenburg as Proteus. These men have such chemistry, I feel like they have been friends their entire life. Both perfectly capture their characters’ youthful impulsive attitudes with boyish charm. Miriam Silverman as Julia is both funny and empathetic, I wanted to laugh at her jokes and cry for her pains. She has great interactions with her friend and maid, Lucetta, played by Inga Ballard, and captures the excessive devotion that can occur in teenage love. The servants of Valentine and Proteus captured the comedic essence of the play deftly and were an entertaining pair to behold. Euan Morton’s as Launce, Proteus’ servant, interactions with his dog, played wonderfully by an actual dog, Oliver, gained some of the biggest laughs from the audience.

Though I was extremely entertained by the performance as a whole, my one question was the choice of costumes. I was unsure about how I felt about the costumes created by Paul Spadone. Influenced by Elizabethan style, but also influenced by modern ages with their colorful prints and colors for the women, and rock style accessories for the men, I was originally confused about what decade the play was set. Was it the future, the present, or a different view on the past? By the end of the play, I believe that the clothes allowed the director to create a world of his own, neither present nor past. By creating his own world, the director didn’t have to abide by the laws or expectations from any time period’s laws.  They were free from the restraints of the 16th and 21st century, able to explore a different type of world. I came to enjoy the costumes, but I still feel like they will distract the audience, making them question the time period.

I thoroughly enjoyed the play. The cast was magnificent and the set wonderful, but perhaps what I most enjoyed was how modern music was interwoven into the play. The band U2’s “With or Without You” perfectly captured the sentiments of each couple and added to the play’s intimacy and “Beautiful Day,” another U2 song, perfectly fit the end of the play, without seeming corny or gaudy. In all this was perhaps one of the best productions of a Shakespearean play I have seen. The play may have been updated, but the Bard’s essence remained, and I could not have been more entertained.

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