By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
At least Two Gentlemen is a comedy. Though not on par with Shakespeare's funnier and more masterful Much Ado About Nothing and A Midsummer Night's Dream, Gentlemen does have its share of rude mechanicals and dizzying wordplay.
Here, an exchange between the servant Speed and his master, Proteus:
Speed: The shepherd seeks the sheep, and not the sheep the shepherd; but I seek my master, and my master seeks not me: therefore I am no sheep.
Proteus: The sheep for fodder follow the shepherd; the shepherd for food follows not the sheep: thou for wages followest thy master; thy master for wages follows not thee: therefore thou art a sheep.
Speed: Such another proof will make me cry "baa."
If you consider that hilarity of a high order, that's pretty much what you get in Two Gentlemen of Verona.
The plot is Love Boat circa 1594. Two friends, Valentine (played by David Lozano) and Proteus (Mark Farr), leave home and meet up in Milan. Proteus has ditched his girlfriend Julia (Laurie McNair) in Verona. Valentine is smitten with Silvia (Cindy Beall), whose father is a duke. But when Proteus lays eyes on Silvia, he forgets Julia and sets his cap for Silvia, never mind his friendship with Valentine.
Julia finds out about the betrayal and, disguised as a man, travels to Milan to spy on her unfaithful ex. Proteus turns dastardly, at one point trying to rape Silvia (a scene not included in the SFD production, thank you for small favors). Eventually both men hook back up with their original loves and all live merrily ever after.
When Papp launched the outdoor Shakespeare craze--and the careers of budding Public Theatre stars Meryl Streep, Sam Waterston, Morgan Freeman, Raul Julia and others--there was nothing like it going on. Papp made watching Shakespeare a happening. He put characters in modern dress and added a rock sensibility. Critics praised the Public's productions for peeling away the fustiness of Shakespeare's plays and letting the characters sound and act like contemporary people. The plays raised eyebrows by refusing to be highbrow.
But four decades later, the Shakespeare Festival of Dallas looks and sounds like pap, not Papp. The contemporary touches are gratuitous, the stagings pretentious. The acting is unremarkable. And the whole see-and-be-seen, center-of-the-lawn, clink-the-flutes atmosphere out front is a big stinking bore.