Cal State Fullerton’s production of “Two Gentlemen of Verona” is a fresh and complex interpretation of Shakespeare’s classic play with serious themes of loyalty and commitment sprinkled amongst much comedic relief.
“Verona” tells the story of two gentlemen who fall in love with the same woman and how it changes the dynamic of their friendship.
Directed by Mark Ramont, this production takes place in early 1900s Italy and follows the close friendship between Valentine, played by Dan Keilbach and Proteus, played by Arash N. Fakhrabadi. Valentine leaves Proteus in Verona and travels to Milan, while Proteus stays in Verona to pursue Julia, played by Siena Marilyn Ledger.
A complex love triangle forms soon after. Valentine falls for Silvia, flawlessly played by Eric Steven Flores, while Proteus falls for her as well during a visit in Milan.
The play is carefully crafted under Ramont’s direction with each character’s qualities slowly developing through every scene.
Valentine and Proteus are very affectionate toward each other, making it hard for them to separate in the beginning. Valentine acts as a hopeless romantic, chasing after Silvia through love letters. Keilbach was very emotional and compelling as he brought a sense of vulnerability to his character and to the stage.
Proteus allows love and jealousy to get the best of him, often seen lying and manipulating those around him to get what he wants. He is dynamic and intrusive, allowing himself to fall in love with a new woman after committing to Julia in Verona.
Ledger was a joy to watch on stage. She was very committed to her character, kissing torn pieces of a love letter on the floor and acting as a boy to get closer to Proteus. Julia was stubborn, yet passionate as she described her love for Proteus to her servant, Lucetta, played by Deja Cannon. Julia’s emotions took a drastic turn but balanced out in the end.
Flores portrayed the sassy and mature Silvia. He swayed his hips as he confidently walked gracefully in elaborate gowns—making Silvia the most sought after character. He fearlessly took on the role of a woman and made the character his own.
The play featured a castle-like structure that included two arched passageways and a balcony, which served as the set. The characters used the set in many ways to represent different locations with crew members frequently repositioning benches to set certain scenes.
The theater was fairly small, which gave actors the opportunity to intimately engage with the audience. Some performers handed audience members pieces of paper and talked directly to them.
Audience members will find a lot to like as this story of friendship and love and even share a few laughs along the way.