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Feb. 3, 2005
Behind the Stage Door

Two gents shine



A distinguished roster of local actors and an accomplished director create a sidesplitting yet thoughtful version of William Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona at the North Coast Repertory Theater. Director Donald Forrest's background at Dell'Arte and elsewhere guides the company in a marvelous verbal and physical interpretation of one of the Bard's earliest comedies of love lost and found.Photo from Two Gentlemen of Verona

Each actor brought something wonderful to his or her roles. I can't pick a favorite character from this cast, each and every one melded into the piece, into their roles and into the flow of one of the bard's most challenging plays. A black stage with painted three-sided columns called "periactoids" allows stunningly fast changes from streets, to homes, palaces and forests.

The twisting storyline revolves around the actions of the titular gentlemen: Valentine (Ben Clifton) and Proteus (Zachary Rouse), who grew up together. It seems Proteus is in love with Julia (Kimberly Haile) and sends her notes through his servant, Speed (Brett Finta), which Julia's maid (Pam Service) intercepts. Valentine is being sent to Milan to serve the Duke (Ed Munn) and Proteus is jealous of his friend's opportunity, but glad to stay home because he's head-over-heels for Julia.

[Photo: Zachary Rouse as Proteus and Theresa Ireland as Sylvia.]

But after he lies about one of Julia's letters to his father (Bob Service) and his devious servant (Brian Walker), the next thing he knows his dad's sending him off to Milan with his servant Launce (Bob Wells) and Crab the Dog (Zack Dougan). Arriving at the Duke's palace with a flourish of trumpets, he greets Valentine, meets the princess, Sylvia (Theresa Ireland), and her ridiculous but high-born suitor, Thurio (Nathan Pierce).

Proteus compares Julia's social position to that of Valentine's new love, Princess Sylvia, and loses sight of the real Julia in the dazzle of the court's wealth and Sylvia's beauty and social position. His jealousy results in his trying to steal Sylvia from both Thurio and Valentine.

The second act opens in a stunning dance of the periactoids and scenes that would have left Shakespeare himself helpless with laughter. First Proteus betrays his friend and gets the Duke to banish Valentine, who with Speed become brigands in the forest rather than return home in disgrace. Then Proteus "helps" Thurio woo Sylvia in her tower with song and dance. Julia shows up in drag as a young page and gets to watch her lover make an utter fool of himself.

Finally Proteus kidnaps Sylvia and drags her into the forest where she is captured by the brigands, taken to their king Valentine and -- as was written in another play -- all's well when it ends.

Probably one of the reasons this piece was only performed in 1594 and not again for 170 years is that it calls for a large role for a particular actor, a famous Elizabethan clown named Will Kemp, who performed with a trained dog. Shakespeare even scripted a part for the dog! Here the clown role is taken to its full extreme by plastic-faced Bob Wells, and in some flash of genius, the director cast Zack Dougan, from the teen Hit and Run Theatre Company, as Crab the Dog. Agents will tell you never work with animals because they'll upstage you every time, and Crab is no exception. He and Wells are a delight to watch, alternately poignant and hysterically funny.

Late Renaissance Italy is fantastically captured in outstanding costumes by Dianna Theil, make-up by Donald Forrest, sound design by Tim Gray and production set and lights by Dan Mullins. Two Gentlemen of Verona continues Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through Feb. 19 at 8 p.m. at 300 Fifth Street in Eureka, except Sunday, Feb. 13, which is a 2 p.m. matinee. Visit or call 442-NCRT for information and tickets.


Desperate. Disparate. People., an evening for mature audiences featuring humor, folly, music and acrobatics presented by the students of Dell'Arte International School of Physical Theatre on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 4 and 5 in the Carlo Theatre in Blue Lake at 8 p.m. $7/$5 for students/seniors.

The Word for Word theater company performs Stories by Tobias Wolff in the Carlo Theatre in Blue Lake, Saturday, Feb. 12 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. Further information and online reservations for either show are available at or 668-5663.



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