By Evan Ortiz
There has always been a certain hesitation from audiences when approaching a modern-day interpretation of Shakespeare. Many people look back on Leonardo DiCaprio’s Romeo+Juliet with nothing but disdain. Eastern’s most recent play, Two Gentlemen of Verona, was presented as a modern interpretation of Shakespeare in the 1970s. The buzz on campus was as follows: “I don’t know, the last time I watched a modern twist on Shakespeare, I hated it.” Despite the cautious nature of the students, the Theatre Department’s performance of Two Gentlemen of Verona soared beyond all expectations and was a thoroughly enjoyable musical.
This is a musical in every sense of the word. Singing was incorporated into the dialogue frequently, adding a nice layer of depth to the play. Some songs were only sung by one or two characters, and some were full-blown dance numbers with singers and dancers filling the entire stage. Each song had its own bounce, its own pace, and they felt as though they were pulled directly from the time period the play was set in. The live orchestra played a large part in this: The band’s thumping electric bass and tight percussions set the tone of the entire play, at least in a musical sense.
For the average audience, Shakespearean humor is difficult to absorb since the playwright’s language is so obscure. Each and every performance, however, was able to move past that obstacle and present the comedy in a way that never escaped the audience. A lot of this had to do with the physical actions of the actors: most played up their roles by becoming very animated and throwing themselves into the jokes (the Pearl Necklace sequence stands out as an example).
Since there isn’t enough room in this newspaper to praise every actor and actress by name, I will focus on three standout performances. Patrick Loller as Proteus epitomized a sleazy adulterer who comes from the land of betrayal. From the moment he first walks on stage, Loller commanded the attention of the audience with his booming voice, and his chemistry with Jordan Pollard, playing the character Valentine, is electric. As Valentine, Pollard’s singing voice completely blew the audience away. His soulful tones and well-projected words waved through the audience like a powerful ocean tide. Hanna Madler completely stole the show as Sylvia, one of the play’s leading ladies. Madler threw herself entirely into the role, flooring the crowd as she moved from flirtatious to intense (and back again) in a completely believable and entertaining way.
The lighting set the tone of every scene well, the set design complimented each location (Verona, Milan, the jungle), and nothing really felt out of place. Some of the choral songs had a bit of an issue, as the orchestra was far too loud to hear the vocals and lyrics clearly. Beyond that, Two Gentlemen of Verona was incredibly enjoyable and Eastern’s Theatre Department should be applauded for their great portrayal of Shakespeare in the modern age.