Reviewed by Will Stackman
Trinity Rep's summer touring Shakespeare productions don't usually play this close to Boston, so it was worth the climb up to a park near Route 2 in Arlington. "Two Gentlemen of Verona"(1595) is one of the lesser plays in the canon, remembered more for the clown Launce and his dog Crab than for the fervid romances at the core of its action. Briefly, the two gents are old friends, Proteus and Valentine. Proteus loves Julia, more or less. Valentine sets off to Milan, where he halls for the Duke's daughter, Silvia. After exchanging rings with Julia, Proteus is sent to Milan, where he too falls for Silvia. When Proteus finds out that Valentine and Silvia plan to elope, he squeals on him, which gets his friend banished. Meanwhile, Julia back in Verona decides to disguise herself as a man, Sebastian, and head for Milan to find Proteus. When Julia gets there, she finds Proteus competing with a wealthy boor, Thurio, for the Duke's daughter..
Now for the plot since it's already Act IV. Heading for Mantua, banished Valentine is accosted by outlaws in the forest and forcefully recruited to be their king. Julia as Sebastian the page on an embassy for Proteus takes the ring she had given him to Silvia. But the Duke wants his daughter to marry Thurio, so Silvia gets another guy, Sir Eglamour to help her run away. When they encounter the outlaws, Eglamour scampers off. The Duke, with Proteus, Thurio, and Sebastian (Julia) are in pursuit. Proteus rescues Silvia and demands his reward. Valentine intervenes, but then nobly offers to relinquish his claims to his friend when Proteus, ever changable apologizes. Sebastian(Julia) hears this, faints, and is subsequently discovered. Proteus realizes he actually loves her. The Duke is dragged in by the outlaws but freed by Valentine. Thurio proves craven so the Duke accepts Valentine for Silvia, pardons the outlaws, who incidentally are all banished gentlemen anyway, and Proteus and Valentine agree to be married to their respective girlfriends. This final action, from Valentine's heroic arrival, takes approximately 130 lines in which Silvia surprisingly has nothing to say.
The company from the Trinity Summer Shakespeare Project consists largely of students from the Brown/Trinity Rep Consortium and are obviously comfortable with the casual comic stylization that director Mark Sutch has developed over the last four seasons. They're aided and abetted by returning veteran Aaron Andrade and his dog Marley, who performs as Launce, Proteus' servant and Crab, Shakespeare's most famous dog. The dress is somewhat zany contemporary; Mariah Leeds wears white track gear as Valentine's servant Speed. With only eight actors, doubling involves such strategies as Drew Battles, who appears as Valentine, donning plastic armor and a visor to appear briefly as Sir Eglamour, or Myxy Tyler, who plays the Duke, as Siliva's mother, slipping into an outrageous fat-suit to play the Host who brings Julia disguised as Sebastian into court.
Props are equally offhand, including paper hearts with their partner's names on them which characters pull off a statue of Cupid and stick onto their chests to underscore their changing affections. There's a touch of comedy of errors to the show, but that suits the casual venues such as this park where the company often performs. The toddlers and preschoolers present probably didn't get much out of the show, but most of the audience, young and old, got into its frivolous spirit , including the youngsters who came in the afternoon for the acting workshop and were recruited to come up from the audience and form a chorus for Proteus' famous "Who is Silvia?", done uptempo. This event was sponsored by the Arlington Center for the Arts. Let's hope other community arts organizations in the greater Boston area will step up and sponsor Trinity and other similar efforts next summer.