Thursday, July 30, 2015

Review: 'Two Gentlemen of Verona'

Delaware Shakespeare Festival's production excites in its realistic depiction of youthful passion

Review: ‘Two Gentlemen of Verona’

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Griffin Stanton-Ameisen and Crab in 'Two Gentlemen of Verona'

By Jim Rutter



Friendship over love. Many boys spout this mantra, few endorse it in action. Shakespeare threaded this truth through the plot of Two Gentlemen of Verona, a young man’s play about impulsive young men. Director Samantha Bellomo and her sprightly cast at Delaware Shakespeare Festival prove their understanding in a Jazz Age production that excites in its excess of untempered passion balanced only by the laughter of youthful love’s folly.

In Two Gentlemen, “inseparable” best friends Valentine (Brandon Pierce) and Proteus (Adam Darrow) part ways when Valentine takes an apprenticeship in Milan. Proteus stays behind, sublimating his lost friendship in newfound love for Julia (an excellent, subtle performance by Clare Mahoney).

When Proteus’ dad sends him off to Milan, he finds Valentine embroiled in his own love affair with Silvia (Emilie Kraus), and in his jealousy, Proteus vows to have Silvia for himself, at any cost. 

Guess where this is going.

Del Shakes’ production captivates on many levels. Bellomo kicks it off with energetic Charleston-inspired choreography that bookends each act. Amanda Wolff bedecks the cast in slick suits and gorgeous gold flapper dresses. A young cast includes some of Philadelphia’s best (reluctantly) non-Equity talent, led in comedy by Max Cove (as the servant Speed) and in fiery temper by Pierce.

Krause’s love interest bubbles like a gin fizz that froths in witty retorts, and Darrow lives up to his character’s shape-shifting name, morphing from amiable paramour to a frightening depiction of deluded rationalization. Griffin Stanton-Ameisen’s (as Launce) deft balance of humor and woe shows that as in many of Shakespeare’s plays, only the clown possesses true self-honesty.

The text contains the gene pool of all Shakespeare’s later comedies: mistaken identity, misdirected affection, sacrifice and redemption, not to mention the dog Crab. Usual summertime Shakespeare simmers in the overdone, over-dramatized emotions of star-crossed Romeo and Juliet. Two Gentlemen is the reality that a young Shakespeare still understood, and at DSF, it’s worth the trek to watch it.


Two Gentlemen of Verona. Presented by Delaware Shakespeare Festival at Rockwood Park, 4561 Washington St Extension, Wilmington, DE. Tickets: $10 to $15. Information: 302-415-3373 or

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About this blog

Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of five books about modern and contemporary drama, and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). She was recently named by American Theatre magazine "one of the twelve most influential critics in America."

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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