THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA by William Shakespeare, directed by Dean Gabourie, with Gina Clayton, Carlos Diaz, Pip Dwyer, Adrian Griffin, Chapelle Jaffe, Jameson Kraemer, Jane Miller, Andrew Scorer, Ivan Sherry and Sanjay Talwar. Presented by Shakespeare in the Rough at Withrow Park (south of Danforth, between Logan and Carlaw). Runs to September 6, Wednesday-Saturday 7 pm, matinees Sunday and September 6 at 2 pm. Pwyc ($15 sugg). 647-896-9680. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
If the dog doesn't win you over, the vaudeville routines will. Director Dean Gabourie 's The Two Gentlemen Of Verona , presented outdoors by Shakespeare in the Rough, gives a turn-of-the-century-theatre setting to the Bard's early comedy about the title figures, one initially caught up in love and the other in showbiz.
Proteus ( Adrian Griffin ) stays in Verona to be near his Julia ( Pip Dwyer ), while Valentine ( Sanjay Talwar ) goes off to perform in Milan's bright lights. There Valentine meets and falls for Silvia ( Gina Clayton ), herself a celebrated theatre artist; he's star-struck in several senses. When Proteus meets Silvia he also becomes infatuated, forgetting Julia and conniving to win his friend's beloved.
The two gents first appear in striped coats, canes and boaters, performing the musical number Brush Up Your Shakespeare, and their first scene of dialogue is done as vaudeville patter. That "Look-at-me-I'm-an-actor!" style defines the show, with many of the two-hander scenes played with theatrical business, as if conscious of an audience listening.
It works especially well with the clowns, performed with energy and wit by Jane Miller and Jameson Kraemer . The latter also has - and milks - the laughs in his scenes with the dog Crab.
Gabourie aims for a light and breezy tone, and he gets it most of the time, even if not all the performers handle the text with equal dexterity. We get tags of Shakespeare, soft-shoe numbers, some intentionally hammy Bard acting and a pair of outlaws from panto versions of Robin Hood and Treasure Island.
But there are also emotionally true moments, and that's how Gabourie solves the problem of a too-neat-and-fast ending. He begins it as stagy melodrama and then settles into a moment of real feeling that brings with it a touching note of redemption.
Griffin makes Proteus a quick-witted plotter without turning him into a despicable heavy, while Talwar's Valentine manages both laughs and a believable heart. Dwyer's an appropriately wide-eyed Julia, seeking Proteus even when she sees his perfidy, and Clayton plays up Silvia's Norma Desmond divadom, playing the role with her hands as well as her words.