Two Gentlemen of Verona


Shakespeare Theatre

Washington D.C.

January - March 2012

Director: P.J. Paparelli

Playwright: William Shakespeare

Set Design: Walt Spangler

Costume Design: Paul Spadone

Lighting Design: Howell Binkley

Sound Design: Fabian Obispo

Fight Director: Paul Dennhardt

Stage Manager: James Latus

With: Inga Ballard, Aayush Chandan, Jonathan Colby, Davis Duffield, Nick Dillenburg, Chris Genebach, Gene Gillette, Michael Gregory, Aaryn Kopp, Stephen Martin, Matthew McGee, Chris McHale, Janel Miley, Natalie Mitchell, Euan Morton, Jacob Perkins, Todd Scofield, Miriam Silverman, Andrew Veenstra, Jade Wheeler

The Two Gentlemen of Verona is considered to be one of Shakespeare’s earliest plays, possibly the earliest, written sometime between 1589 and 1591. And generally, when somebody’s like “Oh, that’s one of Shakespeare’s early plays,” it means “it kind of sucks.”

But none of Shakespeare’s plays suck. There are problems with some of them -- Titus Andronicus is essentially Eli Roth torture porn -- but they all have wonderful parts and characters. Two Gents is considered one of the most problematic of the Bard’s problem plays. After betraying his friend and former girlfriend, Proteus threatens to rape Silvia, and in the span of a fairly contrite apology, is supposed to win back both his friend, Valentine, and ex, Julia. Uh, difficult.

A lot of attempts at
Two Gents play up the comedy aspect of it. Make the entire thing light and fluffy so as to avoid really dealing with the troublesome ending. In our rendition, the director set the play in a modern, hyper-connected teenage world. The post-industrialist set teemed with hints of product placement and consumerism; digital ‘glowing rectangles’ were used; copious amounts of alcohol was consumed; gunshots, karaoke, no less than U2 songs, self-mutilation (cutting), and of course, I skateboarded as a bike messenger take on Speed, the wise-cracking messenger.

The ending was handled by interjecting in a three-minute fist fight between Proteus and Valentine, culminating in Proteus’ attempted suicide and Valentine exhorting him not to by forgiving him. The combustible emotional state of the teenager was how our conceit explained all the immediate love, betrayal, and forgiveness. And it worked pretty damn well.

Like any good Shakespeare play, ours started off with drunken debauchery and moshing to Ben Folds’ Zak and Sara.

Valentine and I arrive at Milan and the Duke’s Court... a nightclub.

Sad, Weird Stories from My Youth that Somehow Relate to This
I was asked by the publicity department to relate an embarrassing story from my youth about being a teenager in love. You can read it here or just appreciate the fact that I wept in front of my father over a girl I met one summer, and became convinced that lyrics from a UB40 song were telling me to go visit her. Also, when we played basketball, I fouled her repeatedly so as not to lose. Staying classy, part 2.

On the left is Paul Spadone’s design for Speed - a hybridization of Elizabethan garb and modern dress. On the right, as it developed - a bike messenger with a kind of doublet.

Two Gents is often known as “the play with the dog,” and indeed, we had a very lovely dog, one that sported a more impressive resume than me, sadly. Here Euan Morton (Launce) and I interrogate him.

Washington Post review



Photos by Scott Suchman