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Two Gentlemen of Verona

by WIlliam Shakespeare

COMPANY : Georgia Shakespeare [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Conant Performing Arts Center [WEBSITE]
ID# 463

SHOWING : June 14, 2002 - August 11, 2002



Love and lust test the bonds of friendship as two men fall for the same woman! Two Gentlemen of Verona bristles with witty language, comic insanity…and features the most lovable puppy to ever grace the stage. Tim Ocel's contemporary setting will breathe new life into Shakespeare's first romantic comedy. Directed by Tim Ocel.

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Two Gentlemen of Verona
by Myreview
Sunday, July 28, 2002
I'm not sure which play some of the other reviewers saw, but the "Two Gents" that I saw at GSF was well acted, well directed, and well received by the 500 plus in attendance.

I enjoyed all of the acting, especially Brad Sherril and Daniel May as the Two Gents, and Homer as Crab the dog. BTW, Homer was NOT responding to hand signals - the dog memorized all of his cues!

The show was entertaining, refreshing, and a delightful way to spend an evening. I especially enjoyed the "Bandit" chorus backing up Brad Sherril.

A Fine Show That's Getting a Bad Rap
by Kelly Rail
Tuesday, July 23, 2002
I saw the Sunday matinee of "Two Gents" and I really enjoyed it. Granted, the show is not perfect--Tim Ocel makes some bold choices and some of them work (the boy band addition to what could otherwise be a dreadful rendition of "Silvia") while others don't (I thought some of the music intervalls didn't work and I wasn't crazy about the costumes). That said, it's nice to see a director making bold choices in a theater community where that rarely happens.

I thought the cast did a great job. Brad Sherrill gave Proteus (a rather shallow character) depth and Daniel May was very strong as Valentine. Tommy Gomez's Launce got a ton of laughs and the dog who played Crab had the audience laughing. I was surprised at how many comic moments the actors found in the script.

I don't think this is the best production I have seen at GSF. But, it certainly isn't "middle school". I also saw the theater's Death of Salesman, and anyone who sees Janice Akers, Daniel May, Chris Kayser and Brad Sherrill in that play will appreciate how skilled a group of actors they really are. This group can do comedy and drama. Nothing "middle school" about that. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Pure disappointment. If you like that - you're irreversible optimist.
by Ikarus
Tuesday, July 23, 2002
Guys, I’m not a professional theater critic or something, I’m just a viewer and what I write is not a review, but rather a viewer’s feedback. It’s good in a way, because I’m not going to be apologetic or try to get good reviewer rating by being yet another yes-man here, or putting crap-bag of adjectives like “powerful, exuberant, yet tender” type of review. I've seen my fair share of plays, not recently though. Since moving to Atlanta about four years ago I only saw couple of things, before going to GFS’s “Two Gents” two days ago. I thought I would revive my good old habit of theater going. Huh, may be, but not after what I saw. Well, although entire cast is a more or less screw-up, Protheus guy was simply laughable. Yes, he did good job in making few-centuries-old text understandable. As for his acting – that’s got to be! He had not a slightest idea how being dramatic is different from behaving just neurotic and loud. Man, that was annoying! I hope having him sing was supposed to look ironic, otherwise I want 3 hours of my life back. Lady playing Julia was almost as bad as him. I noticed that it’s customary on this board to “elaborate” on details, like my wing-leader Dedalus does, but I don’t know how I can point out some concrete flaws in bad acting. It’s just a bad acting. What I CAN do, however, is to remind about an old Stanislavky’s reality-check formula, who said to poor acting fellow: “I don’t believe you!”. Probably Stanislavky could elaborate more too. Among the entire crew I could only believe Duke character, then couple older guys: one in a wheelchair and one taking care of him, and Mr. Crab the dog. Audience responded to his acting the best, btw. Other things. “Minimalist” set, including only a few mock-up walls, is just what one needs to make a stage for Renaissance-age comedy. Don’t bother yourself with music or fancy costumes - simple plot where one guy betrays his friend and bride will do everything. With all due respect to Shakespeare’s genius, the plot of the play itself can’t evoke much of the laugh and tears. (If you want to argue with this seemingly unrespectful remark, write a play with approximately same plot and try to sell it to anybody.) Nowadays it’s a director’s job to make us laugh and cry while watching Shakespeare’s comedies. And the director fails miserably here. Gee, what a joke. Some reviewers suggest that one would have to appreciate the amount of effort cast and crew has put into it, but that’s nonsense. This talent-less school-play deserves the pity, not an appreciation. I hope it was a one-time failure for GSF. I’m going to figure it out soon. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Discussion Points by Dedalus
(1) You make a good point with your "Reality Check" comment. But it raises an intriguing point for discussion -- what causes an audience member to disbelieve a performance? And how can the same performance cause such disparate reactions among different audience members? I have a friend, for example, who can let something relatively minor (such as writing on a lighting gel facing the audience) kill any willing suspension of disbelief. This is so subjective, so undocumented, and yet, so at the root of the widest critical disagreements. Any thoughts?

(2) Don't underestimate the ability to make Shakespeare understood. I have seen a lot of bad Shakespeare (Some even at GSF) in which this is the major stumbling block, and it is why most High Schools and Community Theatres stay away from it. It is a craft far beyond most "beginners."

(3) I agree whole-heartedly with your comment about cast and crew "effort." I can't think of a worse slap in the face than hearing "It was a good effort."

(4) You may have made a bit of a cheap shot with your "try to sell it to anybody" comment. As Madison Avenue and Wall Street show us every hour, you can sell anybody anything. It's just as easy to say "Try to sell a play about a prince who can't make up his mind about whether to believe a ghost" to anyone.

(5) I really don't buy the "I can't describe bad acting but I know it when I see it" argument (and this is sort of an emotional trigger point for me). The simple fact is, if you can't describe it, you DON'T know it. The criteria boils down to "If I don't like it's bad acting," which is relatively worthless as a criticism. The intriguing point about your posting is that after you say something to that effect, you list some very specific things the actors did that didn't work for you. Go Figure!

In any case, I raise these points in the hope of generating some more discussion.

Take Care!

Perhaps before we cast the first stone by universalcenter
While you may feel your comments are valid they are, unfortunately, indecipherable to the rest of us. I apologize if you have just learned to speak English and are still trying to grasp the intricacies of the language, (and thus may have misunderstood the style of Shakespeare), but all of your comments lost a certain quality due to the fact that I could not understand your review. Perhaps you should hire someone to proofread your document next time.

What I could understand is that you were displeased with the GSF (it is GSf, not GFS) production of "Two Gentleman of Verona." Apparently, some of the actors were not to your liking. This leads me to my other suggestion I would like to give you for future reviews. You should always be able to specify who it is you are attacking. Not only does this show at least some research went into the dribble you posted, it also seems just a tad bit more honorable. Referring vaguely to that guy and that girl (Brad Sherill and Cynthia Barrett respectively) does not clarify who it is future audience members should be so reluctant to see. You may also want to get the names of the characters correct, it is Proteus not Protheus.

In closing, I would like to say that your review deserves pity not appreciation. Pity for the future that the high schools have created for this country by graduating people like you who were obviously not quite ready.
FYI by LenaG
In case English language pedants :-) are going to read my postings, I do want to emphasize, that English is NOT my primary language. But I'm not trying to win awards here, just expressing my thoughts, like other people do.

It's strange to see, that some comments are taken so personally by some readers. I totally understand the support in actor's community, but is it possible to grow professionally not seeing your weaknesses?
to universalcenter by LenaG
Noticing personal notes in "universalcenter" posting it's not hard to guess that this person is somehow involved with the play or Atlanta theater community. And the posting looks rather like an upset child cry, then a reasonable belief. If you are an actor or director, you shouldn't be reading notes on a site like this one, but polishing your skills. You've chosen one of most difficult occupation in a world - to entertain a crowd. You have to be prepared that your audience will consist of different people from HS graduate to Drama School professors and you - the CREATOR should make their souls tremble. They will follow you if you only make an effort to touch their souls. Ultimate harmony between the actor and the audience, isn't it what we all trying to find when going to the live theater?
to universalcenter (II) by LenaG
By "that person" I meant you Mr./Mrs. universalcenter. Sorry - I was in a hurry.
Actually by universalcenter
Actually I am not involved with Atlanta theater as a director or an actor. I am involved as someone who feels passionately about the art. I am merely protesting the ridiculous and childish review of the play. Thank you, however, for being so touched by my comments that you would put thought into why I would respond to your review.
Shakespeare in Georgia. Wrong stop?
by LenaG
Monday, July 22, 2002
There is nothing much to say about this “middle-school” drama studio production. Home-made level of acting, lack of basic acting skills. Extremely poor job of director. Absolute absence of designers input. Looks like the play was produced by the band of beginners who gets their drama skills watching noon soap operas. Even loud lovemaking scene doesn’t bring this “show” to the dirty burlesque level. Tim Ocel’s contemporary style doesn’t bring any good to the play. It makes it extremely dry, overdry. There is no need to turn a comedy into street circus to make the audience laugh. Educate your audience Mr. Ocel while entertaining.

Great Russian playwright Anton Chekhov ones said “Simplicity is the sister of talent”. I would add that there are 2 kinds of simplicity “Tasteful Simplicity”, that is made of charm and pureness of art and another one “Faceless Simplicity”. Tim Ocel’s “Gentlemen” is an example of that.

--- follow up -----

Representing Shakespeare on a stage in a 21 century is much more complicated puzzle then one can think - too many forms were found, too many Shakespeare productions were made, the audience is too versed. Especially, when bringing to life such thing as “Two Gentlemen”. Light comedy, sometimes naďve farce, melodrama – these are not bold genres to make “bold choices”. Why not to use buffoonery style? Emphasizing comedy and irony opposite surface-drama would do the job. I’ve seen a couple of great examples of W.S. comedies back in Europe. They were done in a modern, stylized a la Shakespeare-time manner, in a significantly less budget, that you could find here in States. I also don’t want to remind that design makes 90% of play, with a crew like that one - 99%. Design (includes directing, light, costume, make up, decoration, form, music, choreography) and acting –skills of speech, body plasticity, ability to work in a mise en scene and of course team work (ability to lead a scene and to be led) are two milestones in a play production. What distinguishes good play from a bad one? It is director’s ability to put all those little things together.

In a good play design helps actors and audience. You have to be a hi-pro actor to survive one on one with Elizabethan text for 3 hours on an empty scene. You have to be a well-prepared viewer to survive for 3 hours one on one with a suffocating play.
In a good play design always represent something. Who can define the style of that design? Minimalism? Contemporary? I don’t think minimalism helps the comedy. In a drama you can bring you acting talent to the forefront and hide secondary elements on a background, but not in a comedy. In a comedy sometimes secondary element or secondary characters play much more significant roles. And again, this is Shakespeare time we are talking about, time when streets and courts were full of musicians and artists, when costumes were the works of art.
In a good play crew is a team. On a stage if it’s not “One for All, All for One”, crew fails, ship sinks. Weak actors are unacceptable links in a chain. Some leading actors of the play were suffering of severe dilettantism with symptoms of not knowing what to do with their bodies or body parts, how to play up a simple mise en scene. Some of them were so concentrated on articulation of the text that there were no gesture or mimicry, or there were too much gesture like throwing yourself on a stage ten times per play. And yelling on a stage was always a sign of a bad taste, unprofessionalism. Unfortunately, some actors don’t see the difference between clownery and comedy acting skills. We can talk about genre similarities and influences, but again theatrical comedy is not a circus or burlesque. I believe Stanislavski’s method is taught in American drama schools, I would highly recommend some of GSF actors to read his books. Knowing good, old tradition of acting always helps.
In a strong company there are no such collapses as “Gents”. I’d understand some raw moments if the company was working in a day-to-day schedule, plus season festivals, plus summer tours, like some European companies do. But with 3 plays in a list, isn’t it a theater management failure?
In a good play nothing distracts you, there are no unnecessary, illogical things, colors, melodies. How exactly is a hard-rock leitmotif relevant to S. comedy? It’s used as overture, final and a main leitmotif of the play??? What about the bandit with a face of successful dentist? What is that, nowadays irony, grotesque, lack of make up? And such holes in a bagel were dozens and dozens…

I frankly suffered through the play – dizzy mixture of director emotions, trying to find any connections between pure darkness (light is almost not used in the play), red brick walls (in this case it wasn’t passion red, but red that represents power or violence), laud animal sex scene (or do we find it funny these days?), poor gray clothes and the light Shakespeare comedy.

Unfortunately, everything sells these days. Colorful show-biz market troughs on us tons of rubbish. When drowning in a secondary-rate productions, sometimes it’s hard to define a border between good and bad, ugly and beautiful, erotica and pornography (we blur baby genitals on TV, but add vulgar scenes to Shakespeare plays). But what is that reality check? It’s ability to analyze and compare details of what you’ve seen, ability to analyze your emotions, caused by what you’ve seen. Rely on your taste. But what a magic circle… good taste/professionalism could be inculcated only by a good school, strong traditions…

My comments are simply quick notes of a stranger, I have no personal reasons to sing praises to the “best director in Atlanta” or console poor actors. It just a look from outside… J

Unfortunately, debating about poor plays is not in my everyday job description, so take care everybody, to the next bad play J
A Few Thoughts by Dedalus
Granted, one of the challenges of live theatre is making each performance consistent. But, reading your notes, I get the feeling we saw two completely different casts in two completely different productions. I'd be interested in hearing some elaboration on your "Home-made level of acting, lack of basic acting skills" comment. The cast I saw handled the language with skill, making even the most obscure passages totally comprehensible. They succeeded in bringing to life the Elizabethan text in a contemporary setting. At no time did I see "actors reciting lines," but always characters living their roles. And, considering the deep experience and training of most of them, I'm at a loss as to what they could have done to cause your judgment. I admit, I sometimes am too easy in my "willing suspension of disbelief." But, I have been seeing theatre since 1970, beginning with the Jimmy Stewart/Helen Hayes "Harvey" revival in New York, so I'm loath to admit my judgment of good acting has gone stale (or that I'm stupid and uneducated).

Also, isn't it a tad contradictory to accuse the same production of being "overdry" at the same time it's a "street circus?"

Another thing to consider is that Shakespeare's "immature" works are ten times better than the most fully realized work of his contemporaries. Anyone who has suffered through a production of anything by Ben Jonson will know exactly what I'm talking about. And, I personally believe "Two Gentlemen" is much better than some of Bill's last works, such as "Pericles," "A Winter's Tale" or (shudder) "Cardenio."

Finally (and this is admittedly my own personal prejudice), insulting those who do not agree with you does not do much for your credibility. If I really really hate a show (as you so obviously did this one), I find it better to isolate exactly what peeved me (odd acting choices, bad diction, actors asleep at the switch, bad design), rather than just posting a vent.

Although, I suppose, there is a lot to be said for a good vent. :-)))

Take Care,

to Brad Rudy aka Dedalus by LenaG
1. Yes, indeed Mr.Rudy, it's a vent. A vent is usually caused by a stress or a shock. My condition after the play was very close to that.

2. Please, let's not confuse negative review with insult. After all, I can consider myself an insulted viewer :-)

Let's hope for the best and live in peace :-)

Take care.
Apologies to LenaG by Dedalus
to LenaG:

Sorry for for implying your post was insulting. I was referring to your comment comment "It explains only by very low-level, uneducated audience, which consumes any chewing gum that is thrown to them from the stage." Of course, as usual, I wasn't very clear with my comments.

Anyway, thanks for keeping your sense of humor in your responses ....

Prejudge and Misjudge
by Dedalus
Monday, July 8, 2002
I went into the Georgia Shakespeare Festival’s production of “Two Gentlemen of Verona” with little anticipation. After all, the print reviews of the productions have all said it’s a bad play done in a manner that addresses none of the script’s problems. And, having the studied the play with the rest of Shakespeare’s canon, I fully knew the script’s shortcomings.

To my surprise, I found a production that was not only a pleasure in its own right, but one that tackled the script’s problems head-on, and resolved most of them.

The main problem other reviewers have cited is the character of Proteus. He behaves like a creep, both to his friend and to his lover. He comes across as a jerk, little deserving his status as the hero of a comedy. Brad Sherrill’s performance made us not only like the guy, but understand him. Director Tim Ocel chose to emphasize the homo-erotic aspects of the story, which made Proteus’ actions make perfect sense. Sure, he does some rotten things, but who doesn’t when one’s passion overwhelms one’s senses? The key to this production was not his passion for the two ladies Julia and Silvia, but for his friend Valentine. Of course, this makes the ending problematic, but it is acceptable both in the context of the play’s original Elizabethan setting, but also in the Macho-rich Jersey-esque fifties setting chosen for this interpretation. It is dramatically satisfying that the production ends not with the lovers embracing in reconciliation, but he friends embracing.

This play is filled with laughter, with tension, with music, with beautiful language that in no way disgraces the young Shakespeare, and with wonderful performances. In addition to Mr. Sherrill, excellent work was turned in by Daniel May as Valentine, Rob Cleveland is Speed, Cynthia Barrett and Park Krausen as the ladies Julia and Silvia, Janice Akers as Lucetta, and Tommy A. Gomez as Launce. The dog Crab, played by Homer on the night I saw the show, was also able to generate laughter just by sitting there.

And, to drive home the homo-erotic sub-text in a decidedly unsubtle fashion, the Milan scenes were decorated with large pictures of Greek Statues, all men, most of them nude.

Yes, it’s very easy to dismiss “Two Gentlemen” as an immature work by a developing genius. It has many of the same tropes and themes of later superior work such as “Twelfth Night,” “As You Like It,” and “All’s Well That Ends Well.” But to prejudge the play on this basis is cheat yourself of the pleasures that are evident in this production, and to misjudge the genius that had already developed to a high level that would only grow higher.

--- Brad Rudy (
astute by Vmurphy
Best piece of criticism on this very worthy,erotic,insightful production by the best director in Atlanta in the past decade. Thanks-V
by LenaG
Developing genius shouldn't charge for his immature work.

What amazes me is that here in US where competition among actors is so high, guys like those still find their places under the Sun. It explains only by very low-level, uneducated audience, which consumes any chewing gum that is thrown to them from the stage.
Great Review of a Great Show by Kelly Rail
Thanks Mr. Rudy for writing an INTELLIGENT review. Yes, Two Gents has it's flaws as an overall theater piece, but the cast of the GSF production really makes the play work. The GSF ensmble is one of the best acting companies I have ever seen--and I have seen shows from Broadway to the West End. I don't know what show this other person saw, and say what you will about updating the piece or some design choices, but you CAN'T say that the cast doesn't give a first rate performance. Yes, they find their place under the sun (these actors get the most work in Atlanta) because they deserve it!


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