Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Retro Two Gents is Great Outdoor Fun

Krystine Summers as Launce
and Lola as Crab
By Georgina Young-Ellis

The music of Styx and some crazy 1980s fashions sent me sailing away into the past, as the sun set over the East River, Friday, August 12th, 2011. I was enjoying Curious Frog Theatre Company’s production of Two Gentlemen of Verona in Astoria Park. This quick, hour and a half version of Shakespeare’s light-hearted comedy of love letters and disguises grabs your attention from the first moment and never lets go. There is some wonderful new talent on the Curious Frog (CF) stage, and some company members that I was pleased to see there again. Many of the performers do double duty in their roles, as is director Renée Rodriguez’s way: make the most of what you’ve got and keep the cast small. One stand out is the irrepressible Krystine Summers who we enjoyed last summer as Puck in A Midsummer night’s dream, bringing her quirky physical comedy and wry interpretations to her roles as Launce and the Third Outlaw in this production. Let me just say this: if you can manage to be onstage with an adorable Chihuahua (the lovely Lola who played the part of the dog, Crab) as Ms. Summers is so much of the time, and not be upstaged, you’re doing your job as an actor. 

Angela Sharp as Julia
and Umi Shakti as Lucetta
Another returning member of the company, Bushra Laskar, plays Silvia, the irresistible love interest to Proteus and Valentine. While snooty and self-centered, parading around the grass in her "Candies," she manages to enchant the audience with her expressive eyes and ease with the language. The "gentleman" in Verona are all exceptional actors: Justin Maruri, riveting as Valentine, Emilio Aquino engaging and funny as Proteus, and Antonio/Duke played by James Ware, an exciting new presence at CF, whom, I learned, will be playing Caesar in that simultaneously running Curious Frog production. I loved seeing Robert Dyckman on the Astoria Park stage for the first time; an exceptionally versatile and energetic actor, he plays the roles of Speed, Eglamour and the Second Outlaw. Angela Sharp is a standard at CF, and though I have enjoyed her performances in the past, she tends to be a little shrill in her role as Julia as she works to project in the open air venue.

Justin Maruri as Valentine
and Krystine Summers as 3rd Outlaw
The production is non-stop action and laughs, the kind of spectacle that has children from around the park running to check out, and staying to watch (however, it's not specifically a production for kids as it contains some rather bawdy humor). The fight choreography is precise and original, something Ms. Rodriguez is particularly adept at, a hallmark of all CF's Shakespearean productions.  The color blind casting that is part of their overall mission as a theater company also makes for interesting visual dynamics. But though the '80s theme is a good gag, I wasn't sure it really added to the story in any necessary way. All in all, if you're a fan of cool, innovative Shakespeare with bare bones sets but complete attention to acting, language, physicality and spirit, you won't want to miss either of Curious Frog's productions this summer. You can catch them at these locations and dates:

Two Gentlemen of Verona: Fort Greene Park (8/22 7pm); Central Park/Cherry Hill (9/3 6pm); Inwood Hill Park (8/27 4pm); Waterside Plaza/Manhattan (8/30 7pm); Pelham Bay Park (9/4 4pm). 

Julius Caesar: Prospect Park (8/20 4pm); Fort Greene Park (8/23 7pm); Central Park/Cherry Hill (8/26 6pm); Inwood Hill Park (8/27 6pm); Battery Park/Castle Clinton (8/29 6pm; 9/1 6pm); Queensbridge Park (8/31 7pm); Pelham Bay Park (9/4 6pm); Waterside Plaza/Manhattan (9/10 4pm).

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Georgina! We continue to have fun performing the play around NYC! We may end up bringing Julius Caesar to Astoria Park on 9/2 in the evening; will let you know!