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Directed by Gregg W. Brevoort



Nagraj Shines In Shakespeare's Gentlemanly Comedy
Stewart Smith

– “This production is more than worth seeing”

A lesser work by a master is still leagues better than a masterpiece by a hack and such is the case with “The Two Gentlemen of Verona.”

The play may be far from William Shakespeare's best, but I'd still take it over dozens of other plays by lesser artists.

“Gentlemen” is the story of two brothers, Valentine (Luke Eddy) and Proteus (Max Gordon Moore) the eponymous gentlemen who, at the behest of their father, venture forth from Verona to Milan experience life beyond their home. Valentine departs first and almost immediately finds himself falling in love with Silvia (Emily Brooks), the Duke of Milan's daughter. Proteus, meanwhile, must give the love of his life, Julia (Meaghan Sullivan) a tearful farewell as he is not quite so inclined to travel. The two lovers exchange rings as a hopeful reminder of their commitment before Proteus departs with his promise to return as soon as possible. However, it seems Proteus' love may not be as strong as he thought since, upon his arrival in Milan, he too finds himself falling in love with Silvia.

Silvia would be more than happy to give her love to Valentine, yet her father wishes her to marry the loutish and bumbling (yet wealthy) Thurio (Andrew Goldwasser). Proteus, in an effort to ensure that his brother cannot have Silvia, informs the Duke that Valentine and Silvia plan to elope, resulting in Valentine's banishment and Silvia being locked in a tower. Meanwhile, Julia plans to join her lover Milan but disguises herself as a man so she will not be harmed while on the road. When she discovers Proteus' love for Silvia, she decides not to reveal her identity and instead becomes Proteus' page until she can decide what to do.

Oh, and then there's the sidestory (of sorts) involving Proteus' servant, Lance (Anand Nagraj), as well as the band of outlaws Valentine leads upon his banishment. The cast is uniformly excellent and the 1930s aesthetic applied to the production is actually a perfect fit for the story and themes (plus, without it we wouldn't have the luminous Angela Shipley as the sultry chanteuse providing us with her rich voice in between scene changes).

The story is still an effective look at the way we fall in and out of love. What we think we want isn't what we truly need or often even truly want at all. Sometimes the glamour of the new and our own selfish impulses can be too much to resist, as Proteus so ably demonstrates.

As mentioned earlier, the entire cast is more than capable of carrying the show with everyone from the leads to the supporters providing uniformly solid work. However, the show is quite often stolen by three very specific members. Goldwasser's role is small, yet he makes his presence invaluable with some outstanding timing and just an overall smart comedic presence. Then you have Nagraj, who dominates not only this show but in his performance in "As You Like It" as well. Nagraj gets the showiest monologues in the play and he quite simply nails it every time he walks on stage. His presence and his ability to deliver Shakespeare's comedy is outstanding in every way. He is constantly accompanied by his dog, Crab, portrayed by Ella Jo, a 4-year-old mutt from Shreveport, as the program informs us. One wonders just what sort of training Ella Jo has had as an actress, as she seems to nip and yawn and wander the stage at just the right moments.

“Gentlemen” may not be my favorite of Shakespeare's works but this performance is still more than worth seeing.

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