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Theatre review: 'Two Gentlemen of Chicago'

April 13, 2012|By Lynne Heffley
  • 'Proteus' (Matt Walker), 'Julia' (Christine Lakin), 'Silvia' (Monica Schneider) and 'Valentine' (Rob Nagle) in Troubadour Theater Company's 'Two Gentlemen of Chicago' at the Falcon Theatre.
'Proteus' (Matt Walker), 'Julia'… (Photo by Chelsea…)

Another season, another work of inspired musical lunacy from the Troubadour Theater Company. This time around, the gifted troupe known for signature mash-ups of theater classics and iconic pop music has nearly surpassed itself with “Two Gentlemen of Chicago,” an uproarious mix of Shakespeare’s “Two Gentlemen of Verona” and the 1970s and ’80s hits of rock band Chicago.

In Shakespeare’s earliest romantic comedy, a love triangle derails the best buddy bromance between Valentine and Proteus of Verona. Proteus falls for Valentine’s lady, Silvia, after following his friend to Milan and leaving his sworn love Julia behind. He then thwarts Valentine and Sylvia’s elopement by betraying their plan to her father, the Duke.

Banished from Milan, Valentine joins a band of other outcasts in the forest; Julia, in male disguise, discovers Proteus’ perfidy, but Silvia remains faithful to Valentine, despite Proteus’ refusal to take no for an answer. Thurio, the Duke’s choice for Silvia, doesn’t stand a chance. Shakespeare’s hasty and implausible happy ending ensues.

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With every performer contributing notable acting chops and deft comic timing, the Troubies take Shakespeare’s version on a zany rollercoaster ride through knowing send-ups and not-safe-for-family ribaldry and naughtiness (the show isn’t G-rated).

As always, there’s an abundance of pop-culture references, ranging this time from the recent Angelina Jolie “legging” meme to dialogue from “The Help.” A flubbed line earns a penalty flag for “unauthorized butchering of the text,” and audience latecomers arrive at their own risk: The show will stop, you will be addressed directly from the stage, and the entire cast will serenade you with a song appropriate to the event.

Visual humor is a good part of the fun. Costume designer Sharon McGunigle had a blast with feathers, lace and satins and time-hopping style elements. Rob Nagle’s hulking Valentine in long curly wig is a study in pink knee breeches, lacy waistcoat and coat, and painted eyebrows, beauty patches and cupid’s-bow mouth on powder-white makeup. In her pink satin gown and double-pronged white wig, lovely Monica Schneider’s Silvia is his sartorial match.

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