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Arts & Entertainment

Shakespeare on Boston Common, by Way of Vegas

See Two Gentlemen of Verona free during July

It’s hard to imagine a finer way to spend a summer evening than watching a free Shakespeare production under the stars—especially a tale of lust, treachery, and men behaving badly. Thanks to the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company (CSC), Boston theatergoers have a chance to do just that through the month of July. The renowned theater company is staging the Bard’s comedy The Two Gentlemen of Verona at the Parkman Bandstand on the Boston Common. CSC’s annual summer production has become a celebrated cultural tradition. (The company received an Elliot Norton Award for its 2010 production of All’s Well That Ends Well.)

Thought to be one of Shakespeare’s earliest plays, Two Gentlemen is the story of two friends—Valentine and Proteus—who travel from Verona to Milan to make their way in the world. The playwright explores here many of the themes that dominated his later works—the betrayal of friends, star-crossed lovers, heroines disguised as men, the nature of friendship itself.

Directed by CSC artistic director and founder Steven Maler, this production marks a departure for the company in that it’s inspired by Las Vegas in the early 1960s, when the Rat Pack—entertainers Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr.—held court. The set, designed by Obie Award–winning designer Beowulf Boritt, is meant to evoke that long-ago era’s Las Vegas strip. In keeping with the Vegas theme, the production’s tagline is: “What happens in Milan, stays in Milan.” A live jazz band performs several of the Rat Pack’s signature songs, including Sinatra’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” sung by several of the actors.

Perhaps the cast’s most recognizable actor is Peter Cambor, who plays Proteus, best known to audiences as Nate Getz on the CBS hit drama NCIS: Los Angeles. Also featured is Evan Sanderson (CFA’10) as Thurio and Rick Park (GRS’12) as the Duke of Milan. Sanderson is a writer and actor, whose CFA thesis play, Fallujah, was produced at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and later in London. The costume designer for Two Gentlemen is Nancy Leary (CFA’03), a College of Fine Arts assistant professor.

Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, Free Shakespeare on Boston Common

Photo by Ryan Maxwell

Now in its 18th season, CSC is dedicated to bringing free Shakespeare to Boston area audiences. The company, which draws more than 60,000 people to its Boston Common production each year, conducts many educational and community outreach initiatives, including its BARDS program, an intensive summer training program for high school acting students. The production of The Two Gentlemen of Verona is dedicated to outgoing Mayor Thomas Menino (Hon.’01) and his wife, Angela, longtime supporters of CSC and its mission of bringing free Shakespeare to Boston residents.

To find a seat with a good view of the stage, plan to get to the common at least two hours before curtain time. You can either bring a blanket or a lawn chair or rent a lawn chair on site for $5 (plus a refundable $5 deposit). Trust us when we say it’s money well spent. While food is permitted, alcohol is not. If you don’t want to bring a picnic, there are several food trucks lining the common.

The Commonwealth Shakespeare Company’s production of The Two Gentlemen of Verona runs through July 28 at the Boston Common’s Parkman Bandstand. Performances are tonight, Friday, July 12, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, July 14, and Monday, July 15, at 8:30 p.m.; Wednesday, July 17, at 8:30 p.m.; Thursday, July 18, at 1 p.m.; Sunday, July 21, at 7 p.m.; Tuesday, July 23, through Friday, July 26, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, July 27, at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, July 28, at 7 p.m. Admission is free, although a donation of $10 is encouraged. Performances may be canceled in the event of bad weather. For cancellation announcements, check on Facebook or Twitter or call the weather hotline 617-426-0863 one to two hours before the performance. By public transportation, take the MBTA Green or Red Line to Park Street or the Orange Line to either the Chinatown or Downtown Crossing stops.

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john o'rourke, editor, bu today
John O’Rourke

John O’Rourke can be reached at orourkej@bu.edu.

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