A man takes the stage in a brown, velvet tunic with puffy sleeves, shorts and black tights. He looks out upon an audience lounging on picnic blankets and lawn chairs. He is in Shakespeare’s Italy, a whole different world embellished with traditional scenery, costumes and props.
Monroe County Civics Theater will present “Two Gentlemen of Verona” as part of Bloomington’s Shakespeare in the Park series.
“We have the most talented and strongest casts in my memory of Shakespeare in the Park,” said Sheila Butler, co-director for the civic theater.
Monroe County Civic Theater is a nonprofit community theater located in Bloomington and casts local actors of all ages.
“Two Gentlemen of Verona” is one of Shakespeare’s earliest comedies. Butler said it isn’t often performed on stage, so this will be a unique experience to watch it. Cast members discussed how it is a high-quality performance that is fluffy and fun but still has depth.
“This play has aspects that both people familiar and unfamiliar with theatre will be able to take away and think about,” said Hayleigh Conner, a student at Bloomington High School South who plays Julia.
The two “gentlemen” in this play, Valentine and Proteus, face obstacles of friendship and betrayal.
“There is a conflict between love and duty,” said Jeffrey Huntsman, cast member and retired IU English professor. Love rises above duty, a theme common in Shakespeare plays, Huntsman said.
Brent Williamson plays Valentine, the character who leaves Verona to travel to Milan.
“He’s kind of the ultimate good guy,” Williamson said. “He’s the hero, he’s the archetypal dashing young man with a little Robin Hood and King Arthur thrown in.”
Proteus, played by Thomas Root, does not initially leave with Valentine because of his profound love for Julia. However, he is later sent to Milan by his father. Root describes Proteus as a charismatic antihero and troublemaker whose backstabbing ways might seem a bit malicious to some.
“In true Shakespearean form, ‘trouble’ means complex love triangles, mistaken identity, ridiculous situations and cross-dressing,” Root said. He said the play is full of witticisms, wordplay puns and innuendo.
While conflicts arise with infidelity and love, “Two Gentlemen of Verona” is settled in a satisfying way.
“It is a romantic comedy that comes out nicely in the end,” Huntsman said. “It is straightened out in an unrealistic way of course.”
Root said audiences will have to come out to see all that this play has in store.
“There are dogs, bandits, musicians, sword-fighting and romance,” Root said. “What more could you want?”
Butler also said she knows audiences are in for a good time.
“I encourage Bloomington to bring a picnic dinner, some lawn chairs and bug spray and come watch Shakespeare in the Park,” she said.
Monroe County Civic Theater presents ‘Two Gentlemen of Verona’
When: 7 p.m. Sept. 12, 13, 19 and 20
Where: Third Street Park Stage, located between Lincoln and Washington streets