By Jim Tortolano/Garden Grove Journal
Until Steve Jobs finally invents a time machine, the next best thing may well be Shakespeare Orange County’s production of “Two Gentlemen of Verona” at the Festival Amphitheatre in Garden Grove.
“Verona,” as directed by Carl Reggiardo, deftly juxtapositions the Renaissance era with our own, moving from tights and robes to scooters and rap in a way that breathes a lively spark into what may have been the Bard’s first play.
This comedy establishes themes and tricks that William would use time and again in his repertoire; star-crossed lovers, treachery, sneaky servants and women dressed as men.
The plot is pretty thin. Two friends, Proteus and Valentine (played, respectively, by Michael Eric Strickland and Ryan Shively) part their ways. One, Proteus, is a homebody in love with the winsome Julia (played with spunky spirit by Kim Shively). The other is a wanderer who travels to Milan, where his world is rocked by the stunning Silvia.
Amanda Zarr is Silvia, and her slinky appearance in a polka dot sheath dress and sexy Raybans as the scene shifts from the 16th to the 21st century lights up the stage. You can almost see the reason why Proteus decides to dump the loyal Silvia for this Milanese minx. Almost.
Zarr shares star presence with Milo, the dog who plays Crabbe in a touch of droll comic relief that is always a chancy bit of business.
Milo wasn’t fazed by the 300 or so patrons in the outdoor theater on Friday night, and performed well enough to earn his Canine Actor’s Equity Card.
His interrogation by Proteus’ servant Launce (deftly done by Neil Moutrey) is a highlight of the play. Also an absolute hoot is a rap-funk rendition of the tune “Who Is Silvia?” which reminds us of the remarkable number of songs that Shakespeare wrote or included in his works.
Always and again delightful is Joshua Snyder as Speed, Valentine’s servant. His knack for physical comedy and impeccable timing add a lot to the enjoyment of the play, which is one of the Bard’s shortest and less-polished works.
As is ever the case at an outdoor venue in an urban setting, the lights and noises of the outside world sometimes competed with the actors on stage. But neither Disneyland’s fireworks or drag racers departing from the nearby Friday night car show were serious obstacles; the performers simply modulated their voices or paced their deliveries to cope.
“Verona” is an excellent choice for a summer’s entertainment. Romance, folly, fun and a bit of music for anyone who’s seen the foolishness of lovers up close, which is probably all of us.
“Two Gentlemen of Verona” will continue Thursdays to Saturdays through July 31 at 8:15 p.m. in the amphitheatre on Main Street in downtown Garden Grove’s Village Green park.
For ticket or other information, call (714) 590-1575 or go to www.shakespeareoc.org.