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Gerald Carpenter: PCPA Theaterfest Presents ‘The Two Gentlemen of Verona’

Shakespeare play runs through July 30 in the Marian Theatre, then moves to the Solvang Festival Theater

PCPA Theaterfest’s next production is William Shakespeare’s early comedy The Two Gentlemen of Verona, starring Evans Eden Jarnefeldt and Tobias Shaw as the eponymous gents, Stephanie Philo and Megan C.C. Walker as their lady loves, and a supporting cast that includes Peter Hadres, Kitty Balay, Leo Cortez and Paul Culos.

Directed by Roger DeLaurier, the production features sets by Dave Nofsinger, costumes by Juliane Starks, lighting by Tamar Geist and sound by Walter T.J. Clissen.

The play runs in PCPA’s Marian Theatre in Santa Maria through July 30, then moves to the Solvang Festival Theater Aug. 5-21. The Two Gentlemen of Verona, originally set in Italy, stays there in the PCPA version, but it has been temporally updated from the late middle ages to the 1920s.

The general scholarly consensus now says that The Two Gentlemen of Verona is Shakespeare’s first play (1589-93) — not to be confused with what is now thought of as his last, The Two Noble Kinsmen, which he wrote with John Fletcher (1613-15).

In Verona, Shakespeare is still intoxicated with the sound of English, and he packs the dialogue with intricate verbal conceits, weird images and outrageous puns. Some of the banter has an eerily contemporary ring, as when a servant tells his master, “These follies are within you and shine through you like the water in a urinal.” (Can this be where Bob Dylan got one of the most memorable images in “Masters of War”?) The most famous passages are 1) the song that begins “Who is Silvia? what is she,/ That all our swains commend her?” and 2) when an outlaw asks Valentine “Are you content to be our general?/ To make a virtue of necessity …?”

There are some very interesting characters in the play, particularly Sir Proteus, the living embodiment of the proverb that “all is fair in love and war.” Proteus doesn’t care whom he sells down the river, so long as it gets him nearer the woman he loves. Proteus’ first love, Julia, is also memorable for her determination to have him back, her eloquent suffering and her willingness to step outside the cubicle to which her gender and class assign her.

And Sylvia is, herself, the first of that long line of Shakespearean heroines who are almost terrifying in their moral and intellectual force — when one of them goes off the rails, like Lady Macbeth, there is, literally, hell to pay. In the case of Sylvia, she is exponentially the strongest character in the play, knowing her own mind with startling clarity and assessing the characters of others with stunning accuracy.

Much of what Sir Proteus does I would call unforgivable, so I find the hasty and absurdly tidy ending somewhat unsatisfactory. But, we can cut Shakespeare a lot of slack, in the light of what followed. He was still in his 20s, after all.

Tickets to The Two Gentlemen of Verona at the Marian Theatre are $28 to $30. At the Solvang Festival Theater, tickets are $31 to $35, with discounts for children, students, seniors and the preview performance on Aug. 5. For single tickets and more information, call the box office at 805.922.8313 or click here.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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