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One bad ending of Verona [Shakespeare]

I finally went to this year's Shakespeare on the Common, which was Two Gentleman of Verona. As with last year's Coriolanus[1], it was kind of modernized in prop and costume, with jazz music and 1920s? clothing. My companion said she'd heard it was set in Vegas, and when I joked about the anti-ninja stagehands, she said they looked like Florida bellhops. I liked it overall, though I still found it useful to read along with a script for understanding (especially right at the beginning, or to ID characters.) Doing so is also fun for seeing what they cut, which is sometimes just lengthy verbiage, but here also included a bunch of dubious stuff:

"And Silvia--witness Heaven, that made her fair!--
Shows Julia but a swarthy Ethiope."

"a Jew would have
wept to have seen our parting"

"If she do chide, 'tis not to have you gone;
For why, the fools are mad, if left alone.
Take no repulse, whatever she doth say;
For 'get you gone,' she doth not mean 'away!"
-- which in context is about persistent wooing, skeevy enough, but the last two lines there sound basically like date rape to my ears.

Along with the cuts, they inserted musical numbers, generally at the beginning of scenes. Unlike the case with Peter Jackson's dwarf-tossing lines, I liked the additions; good music and singing, and often apropos lyrics. Alas, they didn't insert anything to make the ending more plausible. Let me condense and abstract:

Guy 1 to Guy 2: You totally wrong me, friend.
Guy 2 (who totally did): I did. I feel bad now.
Guy 1: I forgive you! I even hand over my interest in my fiancee, whom we both love, and is standing right here.
Damien: ...what.

Guy 2: No, that's okay, I'll stay with my actual fiancee, whom I've just noticed pretending to be a boy over here.
Guy 3: hey, that's *my* fiancee over there!
Guy 1: I'll cut you.
Guy 3: ...you know, I'm not going to risk injury over a woman who doesn't love me.
Duke: Coward! Guy 1, I now totally forgive you trying to elope with my daughter. You may marry her and have a boon, even though all you've done since I banished you is captain a troop of bandits.
Guy 1: My boon shall me your pardoning these bandits. I swear they're totes reformed, even though they've spend their exile being bandits.
Duke: Done! You may dispose of them as you see fit.

Damien: ...What. Did Shakespeare like, run out of time? Ideas?
Companion: There's a reason this is not one of the more performed plays.

I also noticed the trope of a jilted lover crossdressing and her man passing on the ring she gave him. All's Well That Ends Well had that two years ago.
Also the outlaws forcing Valentine to be their captain because he looks so pretty.

The performers did convey the raunchiness of several of the dirty jokes, that was good. They may have even played up one: "She hath no teeth." "...this is a matinee show."
They also flipped Proteus's father Antonia into mother Antonia. Explicit flip: lines changed from lord to lady, 'father' to 'mother', etc., wasn't just casting a woman.'

Speaking of women and Shakespeare, Silvia is pure, sees right through people betraying their friends for lust of her, and eventually runs off to join her lover. Julia is also pure, and crossdresses to chase her lover. Her maid is grumpy. I don't know if they're feminist icons at all, but they are women of will, not just passive objects. I don't think it passes the Bechdel test; women do speak to each other, but about men I'm pretty sure.

[1] Huh, I seem to have never blogged about Coriolanus. So. It's set in the very early Roman Republic, like tribunes might be a fairly new invention. I don't remember Coriolanus's uniform, that might have been Roman, but later on we saw people in "Che" guerrilla outfits and holding guns, and sound effects of gunfire (even as the dialogue talked about swords.) The rabble wore wool caps, my notes say; I probably meant something like the revolutionary or Phrygian cap. My notes say "so much slash" and "homoerotic", I'm not sure if they played that up or I'm just reacting to Shakespeare with too much secondhand yaoi exposure. I think the part near the end where Coriolanus joins his former enemy really is suggestive, but again, not sure.

Casting was notable. Coriolanus was a Roman-faced manly macho man, as were other soldiers, while the tribunes of the people were short, fat, and dark or Jewish looking. Actual fascists couldn't do a better job. And it is a fascist-seeming play, was banned as such in 1930s France. I remember being a wee bit disturbed. The tribunes sounded petulant as well, with nasal voices to go with their conniving lines.

I'd also swear that this year's Speed sounded like last year's male "Jewish" tribune. I wouldn't really trust my memory but he did seem the right height and, er, width. Otherwise nothing about the casting caught my attention this year.

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Damien Sullivan

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