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The Two Gentlemen of Verona offers outdoor hijinks

Daniel Joeck and Joseph Papke.

Daniel Joeck and Joseph Papke.

The Two Gentlemen of Verona isn't likely to be anyone's favorite Shakespeare play. The early work offers some insight into the ideas, characters, and situations that would fuel the Bard's work in the coming decades. The play itself is pretty slight, and has an ending that stretches credulity to the breaking point.

[jump] That doesn't mean the play can't be fun, as the Classical Actors Ensemble proves in their new, outdoor production. The show moves along with a crisp pace that highlights the crazy humor and romance, and pushes some of the darker implications to the background.

The two gentlemen in question actually spend very little time in Verona. Valentine heads off to Milan at the top of the play, leaving best friend Proteus behind. After professing his undying love to Julia, Proteus finds himself in Milan as well.

There, he begins to act like a dick. Proteus falls for Silvia. Not only does that mean leaving lovelorn Julia behind, but Valentine has already professed his love to her.

This violation of the bro-code goes deeper. Silvia's father, the Duke, doesn't want his daughter to get together with Valentine. The two have hatched a plot to escape Milan, but Proteus scuttles that. Then, after he Valentine gets banished, Proteus claims he is dead and tries to move in on Silvia.

Meanwhile, Julia has followed Proteus to Milan — disguised as a man, of course. She worms her way into his confidence and is horrified to see that she is about to be tossed to the wayside.

Yet, by the end, all is well again for the crazy couples. The finale isn't all that convincing, especially as the more we see of Proteus, the more we want to see his head on a spike.

Moving beyond that, CAE breezes in and out of the various characters and scenes, often using contemporary music (one of the company's trademark) to set or comment on the scenes. 

Daniel Joeck (Valentine) and Joseph Papke (Proteus) are engaging leads, and they are joined by Megan Volkman-Wilson as Silvia, who exudes Italian cool even when being chased through the woods. Michael Ooms gets the plum role of Lance, the dog-obsesses servant (the play is lousy with comedic servants), who manages to hold the stage even when his canine companion threatens to upstage him.

IF YOU GO:

The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Through July 12

7 p.m. Fridays, 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays

Various locations

Free, donations accepted.

For information on various locations, visit online.