By Diana SaengerThe Two Gentlemen of Verona,” Shakespeare’s popular comedy about love, friendship and infidelity, is playing in The Old Globe’s outdoor Lowell Davies Festival Theatre and the cool night air is an added treat to beat the heat of day. Even if you’ve seen the play before, this production is so thoroughly refreshing and entertaining, it’s worth a revisit.
Designer John Arnone’s stage sets, inspired by Italian Renaissance frescoes and oil paintings, establishes the intrigue of what is about to unfold on stage. Director Mark Lamos begins the story with a delightful group of sword-crossing, vibrantly dressed men who go through a routine that feigns what it’s like to be a gentleman.
Valentine (Hubert Point-Du Jour) and Proteus (Adam Kantor) enter the street of Verona and start a conversation about love. Proteus is deeply in love with Julia, and Valentine, having not yet found a true love, makes fun of his friend’s romantic notions.
Enter Speed (Rusty Ross) who is Valentine’s servant. He’s surprised to learn that Valentine has left for Milan. He then goes into a frisky game of teasing Proteus as he claims to have a letter for Proteus from Julia, but demands some payment for its release.
Meanwhile Julia (Kristin Villanueva) is getting lessons from her woman-in-waiting, Lucetta (Erin Elizabeth Adams), who informs Julia the men she finds suitable are not right for her and that Proteus is the man for her.
Proteus and Julia are soon swept away in their love for each other, but too soon Valentine beckons Proteus to Milan. Julia is so distraught that her true love is suddenly gone that she dresses like a man and makes her journey to Milan to find Proteus.
Meanwhile, Valentine has finally found his true love in the beautiful Silvia (Britney Coleman). She is intrigued by him but made cautious as her father, the Duke of Milan (Mark Pinter), already has picked out her future husband.
When Proteus arrives in Milan, he’s dumbstuck the first time he lays eyes on Silvia. He’s instantly in love with her and forgets every emotion he had for Julia. This sets up a tedious competition between Proteus and Valentine.
The play is light, short and very funny. In wondering who will end up with whom; the cast members are terrific.
Point-Du Jour and Kantor easily handle the transformation from friends to enemies. Coleman evolves into a regal and beautiful Silvia, who is hard to take your eyes off of until Villanueva shows up on stage.
With her stomping, crying, falling-into-despair portrayal of Julia, it’s a laugh a minute. She truly steals the show, but so do other characters, such as Richard Ruiz as Launce with his excellent performing dog, Crab. u—
IF YOU GO:“The Two Gentlemen of Verona” runs through Sept. 14 at The Old Globe Theatre’s outdoor Lowell Davies Festival Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way in Balboa Park, San Diego. Tickets from $29 at (619) 234-5623. TheOldGlobe.org