Proteus loves Julia in Verona, Valentine loves Silvia in Milan. But when Proteus meets Silvia, he falls for her too, and the heartbroken Julia sets out in pursuit.
This delightful and sometimes disquieting early comedy of love lost and found offers lyrical poetry, disguise, clowning, outlaws, and a most unreliable dog.
Proteus is played by Michael Maloney and Valentine by Damian Lewis. Silvia is Saskia Wickham, Julia is Lucy Robinson, and John Woodvine plays Launce.
Public Domain (P)2014 Blackstone Audio
It's been a major treat finally having the Arkangel Shakespeare available on Audible - almost as good as finally getting the Beatles on iTunes. This remarkable series of recordings includes every play Shakespeare wrote, in a full-court-press audio production with sound effects and an original score. The series is 10-15 years old at this point, but it holds up magnificently.
"The Two Gentlemen of Verona" is not one of Shakespeare's best. My own private theory is that it was his first play, written before he even left Stratford. Most of the scenes involve only two people; the famous (or infamous) last scene leaves one character, Sylvia, mute for the last 10 minutes. The turning point of the play is completely unbelievable. The puns, some of them tedious to begin with, go on forever, and there's a surprising carelessness about place names. It's definitely prentice work.
On the other hand, the play has the servant Launce and his dog Crab. Launce is played here by the brilliant John Woodvine: if you're old enough, you may remember him as the evil uncle from the sprawling stage production of "Nicholas Nickleby." Launce is dumb as a post, but not so dumb that he can't see that his master, Proteus, is a scoundrel. Proteus is played by Michael Maloney (who did a brilliant turn as the Dauphin in Branagh's "Henry V"); he tries to betray the love interest of his best friend, Valentine, played by Damian Lewis (quite a change from his more recent incarnation on "Homeland"). In fact, one of the pleasures to be had from the series is recognizing the voices of actors who are better-known in other contexts.
The music for all of the Arkangel productions is composed by Dominique Le Gendre. The score sounds like the kind of jazzy, smoky music you'd hear in the background at a candlelit dinner. Usually it works, but the one criticism I have of the production is that his version of "Who is Sylvia?" misses the mark, with an overly complex melody that doesn't quite fit the pace of the lyrics. It's a rare misstep in the series.
If you're going for the Shakespeare highlights, you can give this one a pass. But if you're determined to do the whole canon, it's well worth your while: if nothing else, there's always Crab.
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