When performing a play in Central Park, an actor has several distressing obstacles to fret over before he or she utters the first line. Will it rain? Will your un-microphoned voice reach the ears of a scattered audience over a host of background noises such as sirens, car horns, and drilling? Will you slip on the wet grass? Will a passing dog break free from its master and chase you backstage? With the play running an hour and 55 minutes, no intermission, will audience members' periodic visits to the restroom and snack bar distract others from becoming fully engrossed in the show?
Boomerang Theatre Company's production of Shakespeare's The Two Gentlemen of Verona overcomes all these obstacles and everything else the outdoor Central Park theater space tries to throw in their way.
Understanding Shakespeare's Elizabethan language is vital to appreciating the plays. Without this understanding, they can easily become confusing and dull to a contemporary audience. Even Shakespearean scholars who are accustomed to his work have confessed it takes at least 15 minutes of reading for their minds to fully wrap around the unfamiliar words and phrases.
And so it is a great testament to the skill of this play's exceptional cast that they instantly engage their audience in Shakespearean language that flowed from their tongues as lucid and naturally as modern-day English. So clear was their discourse that passers-by would stop in midscene to listen, young children abandoned their parents' blankets to take front-row seats, and few people left for refreshments.
The story follows the trials and tribulations of two lovelorn men from Verona, Valentine (Henry Martone) and Proteus (Jeremy Black). Valentine hopes to steal his true love, Silvia (Jessica Myhr), away from Sir Thurio (Dennis McNitt), the boring man her father the Duke (Bill Weeden) wishes her to marry. But when Proteus sees Silvia's beauty, he forgets all about his own love, Julia (Sharon Paige), thus betraying his friend Valentine to win Sylvia's affections for himself.
Paige creates a likable, sympathetic character in the scorned Julia. She has a youthful, classically adorable face that is always twisted in a recognizable expression. Her love Proteus is played by the animated Jeremy Beck, whose energy inspired a round of impromptu applause in the middle of a perfectly timed comic scene. His friend Valentine thrilled the audience when he hid in their midst, staying in character while Sylvia wept onstage, declaring her undying love for him. His rival Thurio is played by the hilarious Dennis McNitt in a nuanced portrayal of a disgusting, cowardly, and boring love interest.
And then there's Speed and Launce