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The Warehouse – 1019 7th Street NW

Remaining Performances:

Saturday, July 17, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 22, at 6 p.m. Saturday, July 24, at 8:30 p.m.

They say: “Shakespeare’s bromance, with no bro’s. World War II is coming to an end, and as the soldiers return home, the ladies who stayed behind have a play for them. Take a good look at yourselves, through our eyes.”

Derek’s Take: Finally, on the subject of actor versus beast, we can score one for the humans. In No Gentlemen of Verona, Crabbe the dog (a.k.a., Calvin the Deeple) trembles as he’s pulled from his master’s luggage, his moist eyes and stool-stiff legs conceding the scene to his partner, Mikki Barry. Hallelujah – Barry, in drag as Launce, will not be upstaged on this night! She makes the most of Calvin’s paralysis, spouting an amusing rant on the sorrows of leaving Verona for Milan with confidence and verve. How Launce shall miss Mom and Dad!

It’s a vivacious moment in an otherwise subdued adaptation of Shakespeare’s comedy Two Gentlemen of Verona, played by an all-female cast to the soundtrack of the Big Band Era. The show opens with the leads, Proteus (Kathryn Wanschura) and Valentine (Melissa Schick), changing clothes and trading barbs behind a pair of chest-high screens. Valentine’s off for Milan and wants his hetero-lifemate Proteus to travel with him, but Proteus has reason to linger; he’s gotta see about a girl, Julia (Elise Berg). What ensues is a rapid-fire distillation of the original, edited down to about half its normal running time. The result is a crisp if deflated production, deprived of much of the pomp that makes Shakespeare Shakespeare.

This is due in part to the story itself, hardly a standout in the Bard’s canon. It’s riddled with self-serving introspection and misogynistic themes, plus a dizzying series of abrupt switcheroos in matters of who loves whom. Proteus eventually follows Valentine to Milan and, practically on arrival, falls for Silvia, Valentine’s love. Treachery follows, with Proteus doing his back-stabbing best to out-flank both Valentine and another of Silvia’s suitors, Thurio. Valentine’s cast out from Milan as result, only to be taken in by a band of outlaws in the countryside.

The outlaws, dressed in striped prison unis, provide some spring to this mostly flat effort. It’s among them, in the wilderness between Verona and Milan, that the play’s conflicts reach their climax and resolution after an amusing Three Stooges-inspired fight sequence buttressed by whoopie-cushion sound effects. Here, the plot calls for a range of incompatible expressions in short order, including anger, lust, disappointment, regret, and love.

This mandate requires not only precise emotional transitions but also nuance considering Valentine’s vague and infamous words of reconciliation to Proteus: “All that was mine in Silvia I give to thee.” The actors, alas, can muster neither, delivering one-note performances throughout as if they’re mainly focused on nailing the tongue-twisting peculiarities of Shakespearean verse. Barry, playing Proteus’ servant in a limited but crowd-pleasing role, alone stands out.

See it if: You’re looking for an accessible and taut introduction to a lesser entry in the Shakespearean canon.

Skip it if: You like your comedy adrenalized.