It is hard to believe such entertaining and vibrant live entertainment is just a hop, skip and jump across the St. Lawrence River; but after seeing Two Gentleman of Verona at the St. Lawrence Shakespeare festival in Prescott Ontario, I can say WOW!
Director Ian Farthing has reimagined the story to the Jazz Era, adding Cole Porter songs played and sung live by the talented cast. For Shakespeare purists raising eyebrows, have no fear, it works, and it works beautifully. Often an era change or revisit of Shakespeare makes the result feel forced and complicated. This is not the case here. Here there is an elegant simplicity that underscores the text and highlights incredibly good performances.
It is performed outdoors in a charming amphitheater setting with the St. Lawrence River in the background with minimal set and props. Seeing this play is an intimate and rewarding experience. The proximity of the actors fleshes out the characters’ humanity and makes them and their needs completely accessible. A perfect solution to those who feel Shakespeare is not relatable or dated.
The cast is so impeccable it is difficult to single out anyone. They perform with beguiling enthusiasm and consummate conviction. Plus, it is all very funny.
A word about design; fabulous. The “palette” is gorgeous and Vanessa Imeson’s costumes are superb. Imeson’s creams, whites and blacks work perfectly with Andrea Robertson Walker’s pastel backdrops of the set. Buttons, ties, hats and shoes are specific and perfect and it all looks summery and light under the August sun.
Farthing has certainly crowned his tenure as artistic director with this production. Hurry now to the St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival, as it is all over for the season as of Saturday, August 16.
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Wednesday, May 4, 2016, Watertown, NY