TSF’s ‘Two Gents’ pleases full house
By J. Louise Larson
– “Brought the audience to its feet!”
Shakespeare’s “The Two Gentlemen of
Verona” makes for fine time travel.
Showcased in a blend of an Italian manor
and a 1930s Hollywood night club setting, complete with palms, the piece
runs longer than the play by itself might as the orchestra comes on
stage in what is not, strictly speaking, a musical.
Look for songs of the 1930s era sung by
“chanteuse” Angela Shipley, (“Henriette” of “The Learned Ladies”) who
had a similar singing role in last year’s TSF production of “Love’s
While trio members Jane Allen (piano),
Dan Spivey (drums) and Kevin Kelley (upright string bass) pretty much
fade into the woodwork except for their stellar musicianship, Shipley,
clad as bombshell blonde, interacts charmingly with the production, and
belts out some 16 range-challenging tunes like “Fools Rush In,” “My
Funny Valentine,” “You Go To My Head,” “What’ll I Do?” and “Night and
Day.” (The whole cast gets in on a final number, which brought the
audience to its feet Friday.)
Gentlemen abound in the piece, which
focuses on the fortunes of the titled two.
“Valentine,” played by Luke Eddy, adores
Sylvia – played exquisitely by Eddy’s real-life fiancée, the versatile
Emily Brooks, in a neat bit of casting.
Then again, all the casting is neat.
The other gent, the fickle “Proteus,” is
played by Max Gordon Moore, who charms as the charlatan Trissotin in the
TSF production of Moliere’s “The Learned Ladies.”
In the role of “Julia,” Meaghan Sullivan
again gets her chance to blend into the role of a woman dressing as a
man in a journey to true love.
As “Speed,” Nathan Winkelstein reprises
the witty servant role he pulls off delightfully in “The Learned
Andrew Goldwasser, wellcast as the
hen-pecked husband in “The Learned Ladies,” is a hoot as “Thurio” the
overblown suitor to Sylvia.
As the woebegone fool “Lance,” Anand
Nagraj holds his own skillfully against the dog “Crab,” Shakespeare’s
only canine character. The dog’s arrival on stage is electrifying for
the audience, which sat silent and riveted to actress Ella Jo’s big
brown eyes and amazing stage presence. There is clearly a warm
relationship between the two actors – one human, one fourlegged.
It’s not a “speaking” part for Ella Jo.
Other strong turns in the cast include
Clark Stevens as the “Duke of Milan,” Jason Richards as “Sir Eglamour,”
the clowning outlaw band of Zachary Layner, Scott Michael Gibbs, Jacob
Louis Grubb, Greg Beam and Aidan Eastwood-Paticchio.
Look out for Andi Dema as the host and
Milan innkeeper, Diedre Cantrell as “Ursula,” dancers Rob Sniffin and
Kristyn Chalker, who is also “Lucetta,” Julia’s vivacious
The production was directed by Hollywood
talent Gregg W. Brevoort, who recently directed the Garry Marshall hit,
“In our production, in keeping with an
emerging TSF tradition, we have found that the music of the 1930s
perfectly captures the passion and the foolishness of Love, and seems to
comment splendidly and elegantly on the play and its proceedings,”
Brevoort wrote in his Director’s Notes.
“’Fools Rush In’ … seems especially
appropriate – and not just because ‘Two Gents’ contains two of
Shakespeare’s greatest fools, Speed and Lance, but because ALL of the
characters in the play (and frankly, anybody who has ever been in love)
could equally be regarded as such,” Brevoort said.
The 25th season of the Texas Shakespeare
Festival continues through Aug. 1.
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