Photo by Scott Suchman
By Francesca Hemsey
One of Shakespeare’s earliest romantic comedies comes alive again in Washington for an unconventional re-creation, at Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Lansburgh Theatre. PJ Paparelli, former associate director of the Shakespeare Theatre company, leads this modern adaptation of “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” with careful attention and a creative edge. The script may be an antique, but the themes transcend the test of time: young love, hormonal confusion, and impulsive decisions that have been complicating the lives of teenagers since the beginning of time.
Believed to have been written as early as 1590, some consider this to be Shakespeare’s first play. It is also a piece in which we see his initial framework for some recurring themes he goes on to develop more thoroughly in later works, including cross-dressing protagonists, mistaken identities, and the problem of loyalty versus egoism. “The Two Gentelemen of Verona” focuses on none other than, you guessed it, two young men living in Verona. Loyal friends Valentine and Proteus find themselves amidst the woes of young adulthood marked by the pressure to determine where their goals lie and how they will go about attaining them. Their paths diverge when Valentine departs Verona for an adventure in the big city of Milan leaving Proteus behind with his sweetheart Julia. Considerable prodding from his father to venture to Milan with Valentine eventually drives Proteus from Verona, but not before he promises to forever love Julia in a tearful adieu. Reunited in Milan, the two young men fall in love with the same young woman, the Duke’s lovely daughter Silvia. With all the young women in this vivacious city, two best friends would have to fall in love with the same gal, but then again it would not be Shakespeare without crazy coincidences and strife among friends. More trouble ensues as Valentine is banished, Proteus strategizes to woo Silvia, and Julia ventures to Milan to reclaim the heart of Proteus. The plot is vibrant and generously laden with everything from fickle young hearts to mistaken identities, and a band of outlaws.
Paparelli transports the youths from the 16th century to the present, replacing Verona with a wealthy teenage utopia, Jack Daniels, twitter, an iTunes. Yet, the dilemma is timeless regardless of the time period, when Valentine and Proteus engage in a power struggle to win the heart of a fine young lady. Will friendship prevail for these young gentlemen, or will hormonal angst drive them further apart? With tickets normally priced from $39- $90, you can enter to win two, courtesy of Ciao DC, to see “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” playing at the Lansburgh Theatre through March 4.