- Three Gentlemen of Verona
The following review essay continues our recurring series of “Second Looks,” in which reviewers who enjoy an especially intimate relationship to a play—for example, those who have edited its text or directed a production of it—revisit productions we have previously reviewed, considering them from the angle of their own particular expertise. Here, William C. Carroll, editor of the Arden 3 edition ofThe Two Gentlemen of Verona, reviews three 2014 productions of the play, two of which have been recently reviewed inShakespeare Bulletin. [End Page 167]
Three recent productions of The Two Gentlemen of Veronaoffered very different understandings of the play’s ending, as well as its tone as a whole, reflecting in miniature the long history of the play’s critical interpretation. The so-called “problems” of the ending, foremost among them the attempted rape of Silvia, Proteus’s repentance, and Valentine’s forgiveness of Proteus and his offer of Silvia to his friend, have always presented performance difficulties. 1The 2014 productions at the Folger Theater, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, and the Ashland Oregon Shakespeare Festival—wholly apart from the quality of each—also saw the play’s issues of gender and friendship in very different ways. I will describe each production’s main elements briefly (in the order in which I saw them) before focusing on their stagings of the final scene. As we will see, each production also reflects current theatrical trends of improvisation and the actor/audience relation: what we might call the “Globe syndrome.”
The Folger production, by Fiasco Theater—an ensemble theatre company created by graduates of the Brown University/Trinity Rep M.F.A. program (“Fiasco”)—had six actors and no dog (Speed/Turio, Lance/Duke, and Lucetta/Sylvia doubled), with the characters of Eglamour, the Host, and Pantino sacrificed, their lines redistributed or cut. 2The temporal setting was vaguely Edwardian. The men wore beige-colored linen suits and waistcoats and sporty Oxford shoes (Fig. 1), while the women wore ivory lace; the dominant colors were pink, light blue, and beige, all suggesting a light, spring-like world. The sets were spare or non-existent, and the actors sat around the perimeter of the stage when not on, occasionally speaking or participating from their seats. As is now common, the cast interacted with the audience before the play formally began, sang or played music to frame scenes, and at times indulged in the lamentable but now common practice of playing music while a character is speaking.
The key to this genial...