By Kyle Osborne
Now, there’s a word you never hear in conjunction with Shakespeare. You hear “interesting” or “edifying” or “educational”, but hardly ever just “fun.” You know, like a pumpkin patch or a boat ride—something that simply gives you pleasure, makes you smile.
Get ready to have fun at Folger Shakespeare Theatre. They’re currently running a production of The Two Gentlemen that’s a knee-slapping hoot. Who knew?
I suppose one has to give credit to The Bard, after all, we are hearing his words, but if he were around today, he’d be compelled to high-five Fiasco Theatre, a New York company, for their exuberant, slightly irreverent take on the material. How they stay faithful, yet make the story feel contemporary goes far beyond the costumes—it’s deeper than that. I think it’s the smile that you can see in the actors’ eyes—these folks are enjoying themselves, not too cool to give a quick nod to some of the louder laughers in the balcony, or a wink to some young children in the front row. I’ve walked out of the gorgeous building on Capitol Hill with a variety of emotions over the past couple of years, but never with such a light-hearted feeling.
You can read the lengthy synopsis of the more than 400 year old comedy here: Two Gentlemen Of Verona , where you’ll learn that it has never been considered one of Shakespeare’s best, indeed, it’s considered something of a tentative template for ideas that would later show up in some of his “Greatest Hits.” Who cares? What matters is what we see here and now—and what we see is an amazing cast—a couple of beautiful women, a few cool dudes—one of whom plays a dog for parts of the play, complete with a black rubber nose banded around his face. We’ll also learn that what happens on the road out of Verona doesn’t always stay on the road out of Verona. One guy loves one girl, but she doesn’t love him and…oh, wait a minute…
The lyrics to The J. Geil’s Band hit song, “Love Stinks” from 1980 jangle in my head when thinking of the plot:
You love her
But she loves him
And he loves somebody else
You just can’t win
And so it goes
Till the day you die
This thing they call love
It’s gonna make you cry
I’ve been through diamonds
I’ve been through minks
I’ve been through it all
Ain’t it the truth? But where would we be without that truism? We’d be without several works of Shakespeare, for a start. How about a fun night out? These two gents and company are more fun than a County Fair.
The Fiasco Theater production of The Two Gentlemen of Verona runs through May 25 at the Folger Theatre, 201 E. Capitol St. SE, Washington D.C. More information can be found by calling 202-554-7077 or at http://www.folger.edu/