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Review: Two Gentlemen of Verona

Summer is here…and for me, a crotchety antique member of the troupe, that means: Genesius Guild, Rock Island ’s jewel in the crown of community theatre. Genesius Guild has an over 60 year history of presenting the classics, both Shakespearean and Greek, drawing people from – literally – all over the world. The Guild is THE ONLY place in the country that performs Greek tragedy in mask.

I am forced to accept – if somewhat reluctantly – that the Guild has entered a new era. A couple or so seasons ago an effort was launched to recruit more teenagers into the troupe to perform with more seasoned actors in hopes of building a younger stable of performers to eventually replace old codgers like me. The Guild has now fully committed to staging one show each season fully casted by teenagers. I made no secret last year that, in my opinion, Romeo and Juliet was not a success. In fact, I know someone who labeled it as a disaster. Don’t get me wrong, the premise to infuse youth into the group is wise and including kids assuredly inflates the opening night audience with moms and dads, step-moms and step-dads, grandmas and grandpas, step-grand…well, you get the idea. But, truthfully, if I want to see a high school production, I can go to a high school. I honestly don’t see the appeal to non-related adults to come out to see teenagers perform Shakespeare, especially when there are so many other entertainment options available in the Quad Cities.

Okay, that aside, this year’s season begins with what I believe is an abbreviated version (it only runs an hour) of Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona the tale of two young, somewhat shallow, guys who can’t make up their minds about girlfriends and get themselves in a heap of trouble. Director Angela Rathman, well-known to patrons of the Prenzie Players, has brought to the boards a very good high school production that is vastly better than last year’s offering but still includes the limitations inherent to less experienced actors.

That being said, there were some promising performers who I look forward to continuing their theatrical endeavors. They include Olivia Akers as Julia, the love interest of Proteus, Erica Heiselman as Sylvia, love interest of Valentine, and best of all Josef Bodenbender whose over-the-top Lance was a pure delight to watch.

Compliments go out to Rathman for her scenic design and greatly improved use of the Guild’s massive stage from over past years, but a sharp slap on the wrist for allowing Valentine to wear his glasses. If you stage Shakespeare in its medieval time frame, please eliminate the anachronisms. Otherwise, update it to a more modern setting.

Two Gentlemen of Verona continues at iconic Lincoln Park in Rock Island , a stone’s throw from Alleman High School and Augustana College , Saturday and Sunday, June 17 and 18 at 7:00 p.m.