By Kent Dolezal
Daring to put on one of Shakespeares early comedies, Havre Highs theatre department brings to its stage Two Gentlemen of Verona Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. under the direction of Havre alumnus Grant Olson.
The play, written around 1595, centers on the friendship and loves of two young men, Valentine (Brian Gregoire) and Proteus (Nate Newell). Valentine leaves Verona and goes to Milan to continue his education. Proteus father Antonio (John Arensmeyer) also sends his son, who is rapt in his won love, to Milan for the same reason. Proteus leaves after sharing a heartfelt good-bye with his love Julia (Thea Maristuen).
Upon his arrival in Milan, Valentine falls in love with Sylvia (Melissa Fink), whose father, the Duke (Jon Swan,) has already pledged her hand to Thurio (Jeremy Lamb). Proteus arrives, quickly forgetting about his Julia, and also falls for Sylvia. In order to feed his lustful intentions, Proteus sabotages Valentine and sets to win Sylvia for his own.
The play is a forerunner of what become many trademarks of the Bards comedies, treacherous friends, a heroine disguised as a man, a vanquished hero and servants who arrive at their laughs through the misadventures of their masters.
Shakespeares fools, which become a cornerstone of his later works, are well represented in the characters of Launce (Nick Newell) and Speed (Matt Widdekind). Nick Newell gives an apt performance, with his soliloquies being some of the shows funniest moments.
Nate Newell and Gregoire turn in solid performances in the plays lead roles. Both young men are comfortable in their roles, giving them the ability to effectively emote the dialogue.
Olson transported the play, originally set in the Italian Renaissance, to the late 1930s. He completes the transformation with a multilevel set that incorporates many icons of the period in its backdrop. Olson also uses swing music, both the classic and its new incantation, to help complete the early-20th century mood.
Fink gives Sylvia a warm, yet unique playing, by projecting a Hoboken-esque accent and attitude around a young women who is steadfast in her love of Valentine.
Maristuens Julia successfully pulls off the part of playing a young male without denying her own longings and desires.
Olson pared the originally four-hour play to its two-hour run time himself. He stated that he omitted references to nobility and title to help the change in time period, while also having to make hard decisions as to what material could be lost without losing the stories continuity. Olson, in his first time completing such task, did so admirably.
Desiring to do a Shakespearean piece out of time period, Olson chose Two Gents because the two gentlemen are flashy, which, he said, lent the piece to the 1930s and its era of zootsuits and big-band swing.
Also playing the piece are Tim Billingsley as Eglamour, Nicole Harada as the hostess, Erin Olson as Panthina, Outlaws Debbie Deppmeier, Kristi Doll, Samantha Pollington, Michelle Hanson, Hannah McMaster and Alison Booth. Lindsy Lamb plays Lucetta, while Erin Sethre completes the role of Ursula.
Technical direction was provided by Jay Pyette. The rest of the technical crew is as follows: Debbie Deppmeier, assistant director, Scott Bal,l stage manager, Vanessa Driveness, sound technician, Derek Nyberg, lighting technician, Jenny Gerky, costumes and Carly Swenson, properties manager.
The set construction crew is Seth Alcorn, Scott Ball, Jeremy Couch, Vanessa Driveness, Brian Gregoire, Russell Gregoire, Emily Kuhn, Jarrod Maney, Derek Nyberg, Traci Schubring, Geoff Swenson, Rachel Toldness, Jeremy Woodwick, Troy Worden, Erik Murri, Brandi Woon, Josh Lamey and Nate Newell.
Olson, a 1997 Havre graduate, complimented his cast and crew for the respect the granted him as a young director.
They work together as a cast. They are an ensemble, Olson said of his actors. They are excited to work on something. Thats what gives the show its energy.
Tickets may be purchased at the door with adults paying $5, while senior citizens and students will be admitted for $3.