Dauntless City Theatre presents an al fresco gender-bent Two Gentlewomen of Verona in Toronto
Theatre’s greatest triumph as a medium is getting us to engage in dialogue and ask questions. Dauntless City Theatre‘s latest production poses an age-old question: would it be awesome to do a gender-bent, inter-sectional feminist, immersive adaptation of Two Gentlemen of Verona with a dog wearing a tiny cowboy hat? Yes, yes it would.
Using Berczy Park in the downtown core as the stage for this production, this is a staging that gets the audience on their feet. We move with the players throughout the green space, which not only helps establish and distinguish each location, but also keeps the audience’s blood flowing.
Although minimalist on the surface, Two Gentlewomen of Verona reveals a profound amount of care and thought put into its production values and script treatment. The Bard’s “bros before hoes” philosophy is dismantled and replaced with a look at interracial relationships and gender roles in today’s world, but the beauty of the original text is kept intact. In many places, the reflection on modern sexuality enriches the text. Rather than the fair Julia using drag as a disguise, we’re treated to a non-binary noble Julian fluctuating into a more feminine appearance to seek out and challenge their love.
The diverse cast also does both the play and audiences a large favour, as every player feels distinct and memorable. There’s little struggle to remember who each character is and what they’re after, giving us ample opportunity to enjoy the high-energy farce.
Although the company take liberties with text and setting, the exposeé on sexuality and youth rings as true as it ever does, even challenging boundaries that still persist. Jordy Kieto as Sylvio takes an archetypal ingenue role and re-imagines it with spirit and complexity. He makes for an ideal straight man for the wackiness and meddling of the rest of the cast.
Leslie McBay as the servant Launce makes for the funniest member of the troupe, using audience participation and candid delivery to make the Bard’s jokes sparkle. Her co-star, Starbuck the Terrier as Crab the Dog, doesn’t hurt either. Though animal performers are ethically debated, the respect and care this company puts in to their furry friends and patrons is commendable.
Overall, Two Gentlewomen of Verona is a production that doesn’t necessarily attempt to be revolutionary, but that is also its magic. Women, people of colour and queer-identifying individuals are not coded as being inherently “controversial”, instead they are people who love, lust and screw up like anyone else. And isn’t comedy all the better when we can laugh together?
- Two Gentlewomen of Verona performs in Berczy Park at 35 Wellington St E
- Performances run until August 27 2017 at 7:30 pm or 1 pm, see website for dates and times.
- The park is accessible, however the show does require the audience to be mobile.
- Admission is Pay-What-You-Can — remember that patron support helps companies like these continue to create shows!
Photo by by Dahlia Katz