The Two Gentlemen of Verona
The production… was full of the juice of youth… Phillips and his co-director, David Toguri, stuck faithfully to Shakespeare’s text and found a tale for our time in his account of the preoccupation of the young with love and friendship. The setting was the Italian Riviera, or some place like it, where the wealthy take their pleasure amidst suntans and sunglasses, and their sons and daughters cavort in the miscellaneous finery of today’s youth. A point needs to be made: this was not “modernized Shakespeare” in the usual sense of the word. The play was not made over to accommodate the fashions and furnishings of today; instead these things were put to the service of the play. This faithful adherence to the text in a modern setting had the effect of liberating Shakespeare from the bondage to time imposed by period costume and an attempt at period airs and manners, without subjecting his work to the kind of adjustments and ingenious inventions that are too often perpetrated in a misdirected search for relevance. We talk of the timelessness of Shakespeare. I have never been more aware of it than while I was watching this production of a comparatively slight play from his early years. The authentic voice was there but it seemed to be speaking in our time, rather than to our time from across four centuries. The high school audiences at the spring previews recognized Valentine and his friends as their contemporaries, and kept giving the production standing ovations, Stephen Russell, a large, dark young actor with the sort of physique that is designed for violent physical action and the sort of face that seems to welcome it, presented a dangerously volatile, restlessly physical Valentine who worked out with boxing gloves, threw a beach ball about, and displayed all the attributes of his type: frankness, generosity, impulsiveness, and a shortage of acumen.
KeywordsBlack Mutt Modern Setting Beach Ball Authentic Voice Senior Actor
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