From the beginning, Belmont’s theatre and dance department’s rendition of William Shakespeare’s “Two Gentlemen of Verona” had the audience interested.
Even the set, which was simply three balconies with drapes surrounding a plaza with mosaic-looking flooring, helped draw the audience in. Because the play was in the Black Box Theatre, everything was more intimate – the actual stage was no more than a few feet from each audience member. The actors made eye contact with audience throughout the performance, and the interaction seemed more genuine than if it had been performed on a bigger stage.
The opening scene between Proteus, played by Ævar Jonsson, and Valentine, played by Craig Fairbanks, was the first example of the kind of chemistry the cast members had. Throughout the performance, the actors made the story flow together seamlessly.
Ashley Joye’s portrayal of Speed, Valentine’s quick-thinking servant, was incredibly entertaining. With the well-written and witty dialogue combined with Joye’s acting skills, Speed’s personality shone through and kept the audience laughing.
Another cast member, a rather unconventional one, also commanded the audience’s attention whenever he was onstage: Aspen the dog, playing Crab.
Because having a dog onset had the potential to be unpredictable, the actors prepared for anything. Any actions of Aspen’s, such as barking, were handled beautifully by the cast and at no time did the actors break character.
The characters of Julia and Silvia, played by Johnna McCarthy and Madeline Marconi respectively, were also portrayed exceptionally well.
In fact, all of the actors, human or not, were fantastic and made the story easy to follow even with the sometimes-confusing language that comes with any Shakespeare piece.
Conflict, lies and love ran rampant throughout the play as the story unfolded and revealed more deception between Proteus and Valentine in particular. The actors were able to convey the emotions of each character believably and with ease.
Because the original piece contained some controversial actions, this performance of “Two Gentlemen of Verona” skirted around the issues by avoiding outright performing them and only implying them. However, the decision to do this and the method of doing this didn’t take anything away from the performance in terms of fluidity and overall cohesiveness.
From beginning to end, the crowd was captivated by the performance, continuously giving compliments on the way out of the theater.