Star-Bulletin Features

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Valentine, played by Elizabeth Wolfe, front, and Proteus, played by Luka Lyman, find their friendship put to the test over a woman in Tony Pisculli's all-female cast of Shakespeare's "Two Gentlemen of Verona."

Ladies or gentlemen?

Review by John Berger

HOW long does it take to accept women in male roles? That's the question -- and the hook -- as director Tony Pisculli puts an alternative spin on "Two Gentlemen of Verona" at Windward Community College's Shakespeare Festival. The titular "gentlemen" are portrayed by Luka Lyman (Proteus) and Elizabeth Wolfe (Valentine), and their ladies by Noelle Poole (Sylvia) and Jennifer Robideau (Julia). Linda Johnson and Jessica Haworth play the plumb comic roles of Lance and Speed, respectively.

Pisculli has assembled such a talented cast that the performance entertains on its own merits. Robideau's gorgeous if flighty Julia wins our affection, then our sympathy and support; it's an engaging performance. Jennifer Vo makes such a charming and vivacious Lucetta that we wish Shakespeare had given Julia's saucy confidant a larger role.

Haworth and Johnson also delight with their performances as buffoons in comic interludes. Their debate on the relative qualities of a woman is a great finale for both of them as comic sparring partners. Johnson's dog, Phoebe, was perfectly behaved as Lance's dog, and a hit with the audience.

Pisculli and costume designer Sandra Finney also help convey masculinity through the use of facial hair. Nobles wear thin sideburns and mustaches, and the outlaws have wild black beards. None look "real" but they suffice to suggest that the characters are to be accepted as male.

Pisculli's gambit of casting women in male roles works better visually with an all-female cast than it has in University of Hawaii at Manoa productions which have cast men and women in male roles. Several characters here don't sound masculine, and several look odd, but there's no question that these "guys" are meant to be seen as less feminine than Julia, Lucetta and Sylvia.

Lyman gives an energetic performance as a man who betrays almost everyone -- and his honor. With Lyman, Robideau and Poole creating an engaging romantic triangle, and Haworth and Johnson skillfully playing the fools, "Two Gentlemen of Verona" is entertaining and easily accessible Shakespeare.

The Bard often seemed unconcerned with such story-telling fundamentals as continuity, logic and character development, and so it is here, but leave your common sense at the door and enjoy the show!

'Two Gentlemen of Verona'

Where: Paliku Theatre, Windward Community College
When: 4 p.m. Saturday and 8 p.m. Aug. 10 at Paliku Theatre, Windward Community College
Tickets: $15 plus $1 service fee (discounts for seniors, military and students), available at the theater, Ticket Plus outlets and the Blaisdell box office
Call: 235-7433

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