The intentionally over-the-top "Complete Works ..." aside, "The Two Gentlemen of Verona" produces the heartiest and most frequent laughs I've seen yet from the Prenzie Players.
That's all thanks to a balance of physical comedy with the Shakespeare script, the on-target delivery by a bevy of performers, audience interaction, and a man and his dog.
Director Andy Lord guides what is mostly a briskly paced production, played out in the length of the Q-C Theatre Workshop space in Davenport. The plot of love triangles, mistaken identities and disguise could get into a tangled mess, but the dozen cast members easily navigate through it to a satisfying ending.
There are many standout performances, but the two that peak above the rest are Catie Osborn as Silvia, the daughter of a duke (played by Tracy Skaggs) and courted by Valentine (Cole McFarren). The other is from Adam Michael Lewis, a constant scene-stealer as Lance, a servant to Proteus (Joey Curtiss), and the caretaker of Crab the dog, played by Sgt. Leon Maxwell Edison VonPepper.
Both Osborn and Lewis have the rare talent of making the Shakespeare script sound like casual conversation, with the little tics and pauses that go into the way we talk most of the time.
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Osborn is poised, relaxed and sultry as Silvia, who is given the princess treatment while she's in the castle tower (the best part of Matt Moody's set design) and gets to wear the loveliest of Kate Farence's costume designs.
With innate comedic timing, Lewis rollicks through his role, involving the audience despite having to play second banana to his canine companion at times. The Saturday night performance included some well-timed whimpers and barks by Crab in the direction of certain other cast members, and Lewis is at the ready if the dog goes astray.
Other fine performances come from Maggie Woolley, joyous and later forlorn as Proteus' intended, Julia; Stephanie Moeller, absolutely adorkable as Valentine's page, Speed; Skaggs as the Duke of Milan; and Andy Curtiss as Silvia's would-be suitor, Turio, constantly plunked away by the object of his affections.
Kitty Israel, Denise Yoder and Andy Koski play eight roles between them, but the ones that garner the most laughs are when they play a band of outlaws engaging in extremely slapstick swordplay. Koski's Eglamore, a suitor of Julia, produces an accident that deliciously blends Antonio Banderas' "Puss in Boots" character from the "Shrek" movies with the Fenstrunk Brothers of vintage "SNL" fame.
The two title characters, McFarren's Valentine and Joey Curtiss' Proteus, remain solid even though they are saddled with some of the least colorful roles in the script.
As a first-time director, Lord doesn't add much to Prenzie's bag of tricks, but he still provides solid, enjoyable entertainment.
Prenzies' "Verona" satisfies both ends of the Shakespeare spectrum. It gives a very humorous entry point for Bard novices and, at least judging from the group of fellow Prenzies at the show I viewed, heartily fulfilling for those who know their Shakespeare and can appreciate a few of the in-jokes that Lord and the cast pop into play.