The story opens with the effervescent Proteus and the deeply emotive Valentino in a declaration of strength of friendship set to the choreography of Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg. Friedenberg peppers the play with movement that binds the play’s pivotal scenes to further the narrative of friendship, love, and betrayal.
Chirag Naik bursts onto the stage as Valentino’s slightly over-the-top, relentlessly clownish servant Speed and sets the comedic tone that threads through most of the play. Besworth gives Julia such an expressive edge that you can’t help but hang on every word. Both she and Gallant (just wait ‘til you hear him cry) embrace their characters with subtleties both hilarious and ingenious.
Enter the dog Crab. Proteus’s servant Launce (Andrew Cownden) fairly steals the show with his monologue next to his silent sidekick. Well-placed pauses and silent stares have us in stitches.
Bellis removes some of the slander and embellishes Shakespeare’s tale with jokes and snippets of contemporary dialogue that are nicely placed and spice up the action. Not everything is effective but none flounders. Bellis’s direction in comedic gesture pays off to spectacular results as with the exchange between Launce and Antonio’s (Paul Moniz de Sá) servant Pantina (Luisa Jojic) as they convince young Proteus to travel to Milan. Jojic’s gestures are subtle and hilarious and have us in fits of laughter rolling right past Moniz de Sá’s chance mispronunciation of his son’s name. The fabulous Kamyar Pazandeh plays love struck Turio like a channeled Gaston from Beauty and the Beast and with a voice to soothe the scratchiest shrew. The costumes are impeccable and the dialogue nicely articulated but it is Bellis who truly shines the brightest in the conclusion of his tale. Silence has never been so mighty.
This is a show packed with laughs, sentimentality, and strength. By far the most enjoyable show this season at Bard.
The Two Gentlemen of Verona runs until September 17, 2017. Click HERE for a link to tickets and information.