Sunday, May 31, 2015

Shakespeare in the Park: "The Two Gentlemen of Verona"

A light-hearted comedy about two friends who almost became enemies because of love, William Shakespeare's "The Two Gentlemen of Verona" engages audiences of various ages and backgrounds. Like many other Shakespeare's plays, it has cross-dressing and plenty of intrigues. As the plot unravels with a great deal of humor, the characters mock and trick one another, making the viewers burst out laughing.

It only gets better under the direction of Hamilton Clancy for the Bryant Park Shakespeare series.

Preserving the classical verse and plot, the director makes a few memorable additions, introducing modern technology and New York City elements. For example, Silvia (Kristin Piacentile) videotapes her suitor's serenade on her cell phone, and banished Valentine (Andrew Gombas) takes South Ferry from Milan. These additions, like sprinkles on a cake, adorn the performance without taking away the play's essence.

Moreover, the characters wear modern clothing, and the way they dress indicates their social standing. For instance, while Proteus (Brian Patrick Murphy) and Valentine resemble typical Midtown waiters in their white shirts, black pants and black aprons with front pockets, the Duke (Ernest Mingione) appears in a suit and carries himself with the air of a mafia boss. Similarly, Julia (Tori Ernst) wears pants and flats, and Silvia, the Duke's daughter, walks around in a summer dress and high heels. In other words, they are as diverse as the crowds wandering the city's streets on a daily basis, and could easily blend in with the rest of New Yorkers.

As far as the setting is concerned, the crew does a good job switching locations without confusing the audience. By merely turning around the sign, which says "Cafe Verona" on one side and "Milan, the Emperor's Court" on the other, they teleport the characters back and forth. And when banished Valentine boards the ferry, he has the picture of the World Trade Center area in the background, which makes those viewers who recognize it laugh out loud.

Furthermore, due to the enormity of the space, actors come out from all directions and sometimes even walk between the rows of seated spectators. In the meantime, the city life goes on. Passers-by hurry to their destinations, occasionally stopping to take a picture or a video of the performers. And when one sees a man with the poster "Jesus Loves You," he or she instantly remembers that this is New York, a city where nothing surprises anyone - not even a classical play staged in the park.

Finally, not to forget the best part - the show is free and open to the public. Seating is limited, although there are usually enough chairs for everyone. Hence, the only thing one has to invest in the play is time, so if you have some on your hands, you should definitely give Bryant Park Shakespeare a shot.

Check out this video for the snapshot of the May 30th performance:

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