Sometimes resembling a track meet, and at other times a wrestling match, The Two Gentlemen of Verona produced by the Cleveland Shakespeare Festival is a mostly untrammeled pleasure.
This comedy, directed with inventive flair and a great sense of pure fun by Pandora Robertson, is now making the repertory CSF tour around town, paired with Measure for Measure (which will be reviewed here next week).
This light story of Valentine and Proteus, and their entangled romances, is a splendid platform for various kinds of hijinks. And a consistently on-the-mark cast delivers Shakespeare’s wry musings while fulfilling their daily aerobic allotment—marching and running around and through the audience during the entire 1½-hour piece.
Verona pals Val and Pro (who initially is in love with Julia) turn out to both be in love with Silvia, and so is the foolish Thurio (Steven Schuerger). They’re all bunched up in Milan trying to sort out their various passions and are eventually joined by Julia, disguised as a page and trying to track down her Proteus.
Meanwhile, Silvia’s dad, the Duke, is huffing and puffing, attempting to get control of the uncontrollable hormone hurricane that has hit his court. Of course, this being a Shakespeare comedy, all the problems are untangled and happiness reigns.
Joseph Dunn as Valentine and Kyle Huff as Proteus have the good looks and stage presence to essay these two love muffins, while Hillary Wheelock’s Silvia exudes a nice combination of come-hither sexiness and aloofness.
As the Duke, Allen Branstein gets some laughs from his splay-footed stride, and he exhibits a powerful, although not always well-modulated, vocal presence.
Much of the humor comes from Andrea Belser, who adds much comic flair to Val’s page Speed, and Arthur Chu does the same as Proteus’ servant Launce (accompanied by Molly, a Rottweiler/hound mix jobbed in from Avon Lake).
As the outcast but eventually rewarded Julia, Justine Kunstler has fun with her cross-dressed role. Also turning in fine performances are Corey Knick as Eglamour, the knight who has love in his name, and Tina Tompkins as Julia’s aide Lucetta.
This is free theater, all you have to do is show up and sit down (on the lawn chair or blanket you brought). And that makes for a damn fine summer evening.
The Two Gentlemen of Verona
Through August 4 at various outdoor venues, check schedule at cleveshakes.com