Romantic comedy is alive and well in “The Two Gentlemen of Verona,” playing as part of the Central Coast Shakespeare Festival this summer.
Among the rolling hills and majestic oak trees of the stunning Filipponi Ranch in San Luis Obispo, under the glowing stars, themes of love, friendship, and deception are explored in this madcap play by William Shakespeare set to 1970s music. The production is directed by Suzy Newman with choreography by Jason Sumabat.
There is some speculation that “The Two Gentlemen of Verona,” which was written by a very young Shakespeare in the early 1590s, was the first play by this famous playwright. (Performances of the play alternate with Shakespeare's “The Winter's Tale,” which runs through Saturday.)
Best friends Valentine (Cory Schonauer) and Proteus (Tyler Lopez) — the title gentlemen of Verona — are seeking true love and adventure.
Proteus believes he has found his soul mate in town in the form of his beloved Julia (Kristie Lopez).
Valentine travels to Milan, where he falls in love with the beautiful Silvia (KaylaMay Suarez). However, Silvia’s mother, the Duchess (Krystal Kirk), wants her daughter to marry the foolish Thurio (Cody Schmidt).
When Proteus follows his friend to Milan, he, too, becomes smitten with Silvia and promptly forgets about Julia. He then conspires with the Duchess to banish Valentine from Milan so Silvia is free to marry Thurio.
However, Proteus’s real intention is to win over Silvia’s heart. Meanwhile, Julia, worried about her lover, disguises herself as a young boy and travels to Milan to pursue the wayward Proteus.
Valentine and Proteus ultimately discover the value of friendship, forgiveness and the meaning of true love.
Several supporting characters in “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” contribute to the crazy shenanigans — including Proteus’s mother, Antonia, who is played by a crossdressing Kevin Rae.
Feisty Lucetta (Ji Yun Choe) is Julia’s personal servant and confidant. Launce (Nathaniel Andalis) is Proteus's clownish servant; he debates the virtues of love with his pet dog, Crab (Spike).
Sex-craved Eglamour (Earnest A. Roberts) helps Silvia escape to find Valentine. And the merry Outlaw Band (Madeline Moeller, Brett Walker, Miranda Lawry, and Jess Bernal) befriends Valentine in the forest after he is banished from Milan.
It is only Speed (Gracie Snyder), wise servant to Valentine, who appears calm throughout all the chaos.
The talented cast members of “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” works well together. Capably handling the complex dialogue common to Shakespeare plays, the actors use impressive pacing, facial expressions and natural movement to effectively tell the story.
Schonauer and Lopez deliver strong performances as the two gentlemen of Verona with a good balance of humor and drama.
Setting the play in the 1970s brings a refreshing and hilarious spin to this timeless story of tangled love affairs. Popular songs from the era — such as Donna Summer's “Last Dance,” Electric Light Orchestra's “Don’t Bring Me Down” and Paul McCartney's “Band on the Run” — are cleverly used to mirror the storyline.
Randon Pool's costume design skillfully captures the 1970s style with colorful bell bottoms, mini-skirts and disco shirts.
Nathan Brown's outdoor set design for “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” features a simple exterior of a small Italian villa, which is used throughout the play.
The Outlaw Band moves around benches, tables, fake trees and other set pieces to alter the scenes. For instance, lattices decorated with green leaves are brought on stage to creatively represent the forest where Valentine is sent when he is banished from Milan.
An ancient play with contemporary themes, “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” is the perfect choice for an evening under the stars. Expect the cool summer breeze to lift your laughter to great heights.
“The Two Gentlemen of Verona”
6 p.m. Sunday; through August 8
Filipponi Ranch, 1850 Calle Joaquin, San Luis Obispo
546-4224 or www.centralcoastshakespeare.org