Shakespeare meets The Who

The cast of Cal Shakes' world-premiere production of The Verona Project; photo by Kevin Berne.


If you are dedicated to producing 400 year old plays that have been presented over and over, you have to reach far and wide to find a way to make them fresh and new.  This year, Cal Shakes has take The Two Gentlemen of Verona, shattered the form of the play and re-assembled it as a rock opera, The Verona Project.

And that’s the easy part.  They had music in Shakespeare’s day, he would have understood.

Changing the character of Silvia to Silvio, and making the the lovers gay, seems  like just pandering to the news of the day, but that’s what they have done.

This is California, we’re supposed to be pretty open minded around here.  Nobody gasps, nobody storms out of the theater in high dudgeon when Silvio and Val develop a love affair on stage.  I’m not offended, I just feel preached to.

Plot?  You want plot?  We got plenty of plot here.  Val and Pro (Proteus) are friends, until Pro finds a girl, Julia.  So Val moves to the big city, meets Sylvio and falls in love, but it’s all hush-hush because Sylvio is the Dukes son and is engaged to Thuria.  Pro leaves Julia and moves to the big city to find himself. The Duke finds out about Sylvio and Val.  Sylvio denies Val, who runs away.  Proteus falls in love with Sylvio. Julia comes to the big city to find Pro, disguised in her father’s old Guards coat.  The Duke thinks Julia is one of his Guards and orders her to guard Sylvio.

Then things get complicated.

Then things work out.

We are happy that Sylvio and Val get to be together.  We wonder about why Julia takes Proteus back, since he’s still a jerk.  We wonder about the amazing fluidity of Pro’s sexuality, switching from straight to gay and back without the tiniest hesitation.

We liked the music.  We loved the acting, particularly Arwen Anderson as Julia.  The set, as always with Cal Shakes, in innovative and wonderful.

The part Bill Shakespeare wrote have stood the test of 400 years.  The new parts probably won’t.  Too preachy, too California touchy-feely,  I’m OK/You’re OK psychobabble.

Overall?  Go see it.  You’ll like it.


. . .


After the show, dinner at Postino, the old standby.  They have a young man singing and playing guitar most evenings, and he’s great.  Linda ordered the trout, and was amazed at how beautifully they had managed to bone it out and still preserve the form of the fish.  Micky and I had the short ribs, Gail had a rib eye so good she took some home–and she never does that.  Postino is like the original version of a Shakespeare play–tried and true, not fancy, not hyper-modern, just cranking out the good stuff day after day.

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