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Keene State Theatre Sets Shakespeare Comedy in the '60s

KEENE, N.H. 10/28/03 - Keene State Theatre presents The Two Gentlemen of Verona, a comedy about a complicated love triangle that challenges a lifelong friendship at 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, Nov. 12-15, in the Main Theatre of the Redfern Arts Center on Brickyard Pond at Keene State College. Tickets are $7 for the general public and $5 for KSC students, senior citizens, and youth 17 or younger. Call the box office at 603-358-2168.

_The Two Gentlemen of Verona, the bard’s first romantic comedy, follows the adventures of two rich young men who fall in love with two witty young women, but it’s uncertain who’s in love with whom. As is typical in Shakespeare’s comedies there are plenty of star-crossed lovers, mistaken identities, and rowdy troublemakers.

“Although it’s one of Shakespeare’s early plays, it has all the comic elements we see in his later comedies,” explains director Ron Spangler, assistant professor of theater at Keene State.

Spangler chose the play because it shows the youthfulness of the young Shakespeare and deals with young love. “It’s a play about young people which I thought was just right for college-age students,” says Spangler. Other than two middle-aged adults and a dog, the remaining 15 roles are young people.

This youthful exuberance will be reflected in the costumes, scenery, lighting, and music, of which Spangler has chosen to meld elements of Renaissance Italy with 1960s America. The play will be set in the northern Italian cities of Milan and Verona and the actors will speak Shakespeare’s dialogue as written, but they’ll be dressed in Nehru jackets and paisley suits, mini skirts and go- go boots, jeans and tie-dyed shirts.

“The ’60s work because it’s one of the few contemporary time periods where you see some Renaissance influence; it’s a time when men’s dress is as showy and colorful as women’s,” explains Spangler.

The scenery will display Renaissance architecture but will be painted the bright colors of the sixties. The lighting will be psychedelic with blue lights used at times to highlight glow-in-the-dark clothing. Music by the Beatles, Jefferson Airplane, and the Monkees will complement the set.

There will be one diversion from the 1960s era during a scene when a group of outlaws wreak havoc on Rollerblades, because student actors found them easier to maneuver than roller skates.

Michael Haines of Keene, a KSC English faculty member, plays Antonio, the father of Proteus (Dan Haggerty of Penacook), lifelong friend to Valentine (John Freyer of South Salem, N.Y.) Both young men fall in love with Silvia (Liane Ryan of Cummington, Mass.), although Proteus has pledged his love to Julia (Marisa Clement of West Hartford, Conn.).

Kevin Colarusso of New Ipswich plays the Duke of Milan, father to Silvia, who commands that his daughter marry Thurio (Steve Gravelle of Merrimack). Chris Brooks of Meriden, Conn., plays Eglamour, who helps Silvia escape from her father’s house to find Valentine. Michael Schwartz of New Windsor, N.Y., plays the host where Julia lodges.

Almost everyone has servants helping or hindering them as the comedy unfolds. Jared Ball of Lebanon plays Speed, Valentine’s clownish servant, and Timothy L’Ecuyer of Merrimack portrays a servant to Proteus, who loses a dog and replaces it with his own mutt. The 85-pound dog, Max of Marlborough, is the director’s pet. Elizabeth Ayers of Gilmanton is Julia’s waiting woman and Eric Kuenzel of Barnstable, Mass., plays a servant to Antonio.

Kuenzel joins Tom Larachelle of Concord; Evan Lidestri of Niantic, Conn.; Joshua Midgett of Bourne, Mass.; and Joshua Yeaton of Strafford to play groups of servants, musicians, and outlaws.

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