Let’s just come out and say it. “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” is the amuse-bouche of Shakespearean comedies. It doesn’t have the cutting dialogue or villainy of “Much Ado About Nothing” or the many facets of “As You Like It,” but it’s fun and it feels good on the palate.
Set in Verona and Milan, the story revolves around Proteus (Adam Kantor) and Valentine (Hubert Point-Du Jour), the aforementioned gentlemen, and their ongoing bromance. When Valentine leaves Verona for Milan, Proteus refocuses his attention on his emerging love with Julia (Kristin Villanueva).
Things get interesting when Proteus joins Valentine in Milan and is instantly smitten with his friend’s love interest, Silvia (Britney Coleman). Ignoring his dual loyalties to Valentine and Julia, Proteus begins a no-holds-barred campaign to win Silvia’s heart. It’s not pretty.
The thing about the play is that it seems small. Proteus is an inept and mostly harmless villain and there’s very little captivating battle-of-the-sexes dialogue to rivet our attention.
We’re left with the characterizations, and that’s where the Globe’s production steps up. Kantor’s Proteus is an amiable guy, despite his evident character flaws. Villaneuva offers an amusingly flighty, and unbelievably forgiving, Julia. Coleman brings a combination of haughtiness and noblesse oblige, as if to say: “Sorry Proteus, way out of your league.”
Still the comic highlight was Launce (Richard Ruiz), Proteus’ servant, and his dog Crab (Khloe Jezbera). Credit Ruiz for letting the dog upstage him. Additional kudos to Lowell Byers, who plays Turio, Silvia’s dim suitor. And elocution props to Mark Pinter, who plays Silvia’s father and sounds every bit the Duke.
The set includes a beautifully painted backdrop of a generic Italian town, a bit more elaborate than usually found at the Shakespeare festival. The direction is spot-on, maximizing each potential laugh, while minimizing Proteus’ douchery.
Ultimately, the production is a fun night of theater, unclouded by deep thoughts or overly complex plot devices. Shakespeare lite.