Two boys two girls. It’s Shakespeare’s first romantic comedy, featuring privileged Italian youths with no responsibility and marriage as their chief aim. It’s exuberant, bouncy and rough-edged. Shakespeare’s boys have never been younger, more prankishly sophomoric, more given to strutting and “braggardism,” more prone to do the dumbest things. Like Proteus trying to rape Valentine’s girlfriend, Telling her “I’ll woo you like a soldier…force ye.” Valentine rushes to the rescue, then apparently hands the girlfriend over to his rapist friend to keep their teen-age boys friendship “plain and free.”
It’s the scene the artists love to paint. But forgiveness is the keynote and those highspirited gaffes are excused. The boys propose that all four of them get married, fast and festive.
This is very early bard and he hasn’t figured all the angles. He’s trying out on his two pairs of lovers the disruptive devices he’ll use again: flighty cheating between lovers and friends, girl in boy’s clothes, villainous rival, heavy parents, outlaws in the woods. Lots of buffoonery, punning and quipping, and a live tiny shaggy dog, an alert terrier named Tiger so amiably behaved onstage it’s hard to believe he’d “make water against a gentlewoman’s farthingale.” As reported.
Frog and Peach is a zestful springy troupe bursting with good will and talent. Noteworthy are the two gentlemen themselves: Eric Dysart’s sweet-voiced bad boy Proteus the fickle, and Erick Gonzalez doing a hyper-exhilarated Valentine the faithful. The company breezes through with original songs and swordplay, their costuming a creative miscellany of Elizabethan frills and doublets, pretty dresses and jeans. They say they like to compress Shakespeare to movie-size and this one works. Earlier this year they put on Julius Caesar with guest star Rip Torn, and before that Twelfth Night. Check out their next production on West End Avenue and 86th Street, Manhattan. www.frogandpeachtheatre.org.