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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Two Gentlemen of Verona

“To die, is to be banish’d from myself; And Silvia is myself: banish’d from her,
Is self from self: a deadly banishment! What light is light, if Silvia be not seen?”
-Act III, scene I

Just as it is exciting to see a great artist’s early work, it is amazing to see Shakespeare flexing his play-writing abilities with his first written play: “Two Gentlemen of Verona.” Sarah Rasmussen directed an all-woman cast at the Jungle Theater in Minneapolis. While “Two Gentlemen of Verona” is not one of Shakespeare’s most well-known or performed plays (in fact, I thought it was one of Shakespeare’s more mediocre plays), this truly unique take on love consistently amazed me. Both the Bard and the cast’s talents came to the fore.

The awe and majesty of love is the overarching theme throughout the play: a theme most can identify with. We all know someone like Valentine, who plays the cynic: “Love is your master, so he masters you; and he that is so yoked by a fool, should not be noted as wise.” He sets himself up to fall into a deeper love than he could imagine before the play ends. Shortly after, the young lover Proteus is sent away, just as his tender love begins to blooms for Julia. He fails this test of loyalty when he falls in love with Sylvia, his best friend’s lover, upon first sight. Valentine and Proteus spar over the same love interest leading to intrigue, exile and raw feelings. At one point Valentine makes plans to run away with his love to escape a seemingly contrary world, further complicating the plot. In the typical comedic Shakespeare tradition, “All’s Well That Ends Well” — or in the words of Valentine “one feast, one love, one mutual happiness.”

“Two Gentlemen of Verona,” foreshadows the themes and motifs we will recognize in Shakespeare’s later great works. Most notably, his first female character cross-dresses as a man; this forces her into an inability to reveal her love without revealing her true self. Vicious love triangles, exile of a royal, finding life and love in the wilderness, malapropism and star crossed lovers in Verona all make an appearance hinting at (respectively) the to-be-written “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “The Tempest,” “As You Like It,” “Much Ado about Nothing” and “Romeo and Juliet.” Director Sarah Rasmussen really brought these subtle hints of further plays into the spotlight.

Rasmussen’s all-women cast raised excellent questions about preconceived notions of gender and how they mesh and conflict with character. The fact that Shakespearean casts were all men stayed in the back of my mind as the performance moved on, and this subversive nod to history gave the entire production an air of authenticity to the source material. I was immediately immersed in the beautifully designed world that was created before me, which kept me thinking throughout the production with little distraction.

This production of “Two Gentleman of Verona” has been the best I have ever seen. Each part was perfectly cast and each member wears their role as easily as a familiar coat. The two leads Proteus (Christiana Clark) and Valentine (Mo Perry) play their parts so wonderfully you can’t help but get drawn into the drama and tension that they create. This is natural because Clark is reprising her role after performing it with the prestigious Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Perry suits the role of Valentine exceptionally well, perhaps because she is an experienced writer playing a budding one. Shakespeare usual punnery is delivered often by the fool of the production: Launch, played by George Keller (with her animal sidekick “Crab the dog”). The Twin Cities’ illustrious Wendy Lehr (playing Speed and Prince Eglamour) made the performance genuinely hilarious, as she knows exactly what buttons to press to have you catch yourself laughing out loud due to her perfect delivery and physical humor.

Overall, I was amazed by this production and would highly recommend seeing it. Showtimes are 8:00 p.m. every Fri. and Sat; 2:00 p.m. every Sun; and 7:30 p.m. every Tue., Wed., Thu. and Sun., all until March 27. Student Rush tickets are $17 which is half the standard price, so take advantage of this excellent opportunity to see a world-class production. Jungle Theater also takes great efforts to engage audiences, so try to stop by both the pre-show talk (an hour before the show) and the after show talk (shortly after the curtain call).

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