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CurtainUp Guest Review
The Two Gentlemen of Verona
or Shakespeare with Salsa
by Joan Eshkenazi

For those Shakespearean devotees or rather aficionados, the beef is there but the dash of accent lends it a spicier flavor. In the Blue Light Theater Company's production of Shakespeare's play Verona becomes Texas, Milan is now south of the border and the year is 1897. Valiant Valentine courts the aristocratic Sylvia; conniving Proteus pursues Sylvia; the ingenuous Julia tracks her straying Proteus and Thurio, Mom's choice for her Sylvia, bungles in his fool's way underneath his simpleton's sombrero. Enhancing this madcap comedy are two servants Speed and Launce, who along with Crab, the dog, provide many a moment of pure fun. The outlaws are American Indians, completing the zany but successful transformation from dukes to dudes.

The cartoon style set, designed by Michael Vaughn Sims, provides an excellent setting in desert yellow and blue hues. The simple switch from "Beer" to "Cerveza" signals the change in locale The harmonica, the sounds of a washboard and a few hoofers set the scene. The price of beer (5 cents) is bound to capture the attention of the audience!

Talmadge Lowe as lovesick Valentine captures our sympathies. He hesitates to leave the site of his beloved even as the intermission is well under way! Greg Naughton as the devious Proteus is less believable but is endearing during his serenading of Sylvia played by a vivacious Camilia Sanes. Vivienne Benesch is a winsome Julia who can easily move from Verona to Oklahoma! Mathew Saldivar as Thurio is a ridiculous delight. Larry Nathanson (Speed) and Joe Grifasi (Launce) engendered many a guffaw as they played their roles as servant clowns. A fine bone should be thrown to "Fred" the dog who played his role so well! The few flubbed lines can be forgiven for to perform the olde English Dialogue with a Texan twang is no easy feat. Dylan Baker, the director, can now add this production to his long list of successes. He can be seen currently in the CBS series Feds as FBI agent Jack Gaffney.

Although there were moments that dragged and the play at times did seem a bit silly-- (after all this is not one of the Bard's best)-- this enjoyable production is nevertheless highly recommended. If this is an indication of what to expect from the toddler Blue Light Theater Company, the theater audience should look forward to future productions, with all the seats be filled in no time!

© February 1997, CurtainUp.

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