by Dick Kerekes
Jacksonville University film studies program presented three performances, January 15-17 of William Shakespeare’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona in the Studio Theatre on the Arlington Campus. The purpose of doing this production was as a film project by the students in the program. The performances were free and drew a student audience as well as avid theatre fans from the community.
The Two Gentlemen of Verona is one of Shakespeare’s earliest plays, and one that is not frequently done. Its greatest claim to fame is because it is the first comedy the Bard brought in a dog. JU’s production indeed did have one of the low maintenance breeds, a stuffed fluffy brown variety.
The show has closed, so a plot summary is not really necessary, since the chances of Two Gentleman being done any time in the immediate future in this area are extremely remote.
Shakespeare’s plays these days are often reinterpreted, re-adapted and sometime rewritten, in many ways. JU Director Carolina Conte used the original words of Shakespeare, eliminating it seems a couple of very minor roles. The setting though was mainly an open stage in the black box studio, with the costumes ranging from country and western, to punk rock style.
JU Senior and opera major, Vincent Teschel opened the show singing a ballad that set the stage and prepared us for what was to follow. The song reminded me of the cowboy singing the opening of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Terschel came back in two other small roles, including one in drag as a female friend of one of the lovers. Vincent is obviously ready and qualified for a revival of Some Like it Hot.
The cast list reads like a who is who in the Jacksonville University Theatre Program, and most were familiar to me from reviewing other plays here, like All of My Sons, Ragtime<.i>, Oklahoma,No Exit, Grapes of Wrath and Lysistrata. As you can see I don’t miss many and between the Swisher Theatre and The Studio Theatre, JU is one of my favorite places to see theatre. The cast also included; Sam Smid (Valentine), Lukas Cyr (Proteus), Matt Watson (Speed & Turio), Meredith Brown (Julia), Suzie Rogerson (Lucetta), Sabrina Chiang (Silva) Fidele Ishimwe & Eric Crow as the outlaws.
Nick Boucher is new to me and the JU theatre program. His interpretation of the Duke provided much of the humor in the play. I am looking forward to seeing him (and Meredith Brown), in the Deborah Jordan directed Crimes of the Heart coming up in February.
Erik DeCicco portrayed the character, Lance, via video that was projected on the wall. Mr. DeCicco made his appearance in this manner as he was busy directing and playing one of the leading roles in Ghosts at ABET
Five of the six musicians who performed the original music of Tony Steve were actors in the play, with the addition of Aaron Plotz. Suzie Rogerson was the choreographer, with costumes by Argie Mitra and make up by Clenton Hollinger. Jenn Flaherty as stage manager kept this show on course and fast paced.
The acting was excellent. Shakespeare is difficult to do well, but this cast touched all the bases, with good characterizations, diction and projection. My only suggestion for any group doing a Shakespeare play; put a synopsis of the play in your program. JU’s playbill had plenty space left over to provide a brief plot summary and even some director’s notes.
If you have not seen a play at Jacksonville University, check out Crimes of the Heart in February that will also be performed in the very intimate studio theatre.