Review: 2 Gentlemen of Verona

2 Gentlemen of Verona, 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, $10-$20. Big Idea Theatre, 1616 Del Paso Boulevard; (916) 960-3036; Through December 12.
Rated 4.0

Toying with Shakespeare can be a crap shoot at best. Sometimes it works; often it doesn’t. Big Idea Theatre regularly is successful at the game and its latest—2 Gentlemen of Verona—is a good example of such. Setting the play in Las Vegas turns the Royal Court, locus of much of the action, into the Royal Court Casino—but the adapter, who is not credited, hedges bets by not making fuller use of that setting.

Imagine Ben Affleck and Matt Damon in a Shakespearean bromance. That’s Valentine (Eric Craig, dapper in his suit and tie) and best friend Proteus (the charming, open-faced Russell Dow), who go all in when both fall in love with the same woman. Sylvia (Chloe King) is a lounge singer who enchants both men, despite Proteus’ having already pledged his love to Julia (whip-smart Mariana Seda). One complication: Sylvia has been pledged—more like promised by her father—to another lounge performer, Thurio (Brian Bohlender, whose pliable face says more than his words or actions).

This comedy, which some consider to be Shakespeare’s first play, shows many hallmarks of the Bard’s later comedies: mistaken identities, a heroine who dresses as a boy and mischievous servants (here it is Speed and Lance, expertly played for laughs by Zachary Scovel and Kevin Adamski, respectively).

Gail Dartez deftly directs an excellent cast capable of understanding and acting the language. Oh, and the dog. Well, he may be the best actor of all.