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Peterborough

Shakespeare, in the roaring ’20s

Community acting troupe takes on the Bard’s first play, ‘Two Gentlemen of Verona’

  • At a dress rehearsal Sunday of "The Two Gentlemen of Verona" in Depot Park, Alana Korda of Jaffrey, playing Panthina, right, interrupts her friend Antonia, played by Alix Woodford of Greenfield, in the middle of a shot to advise her to send her son to Milan, while their caddy, played by Jakob Stone of Harrisville, looks on. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    At a dress rehearsal Sunday of "The Two Gentlemen of Verona" in Depot Park, Alana Korda of Jaffrey, playing Panthina, right, interrupts her friend Antonia, played by Alix Woodford of Greenfield, in the middle of a shot to advise her to send her son to Milan, while their caddy, played by Jakob Stone of Harrisville, looks on.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Scott Gardner of Rindge, left, and Bert Torsey of Marlborough play Speed and Launce, the servants of the main characters in "Two Gentlemen of Verona." <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Scott Gardner of Rindge, left, and Bert Torsey of Marlborough play Speed and Launce, the servants of the main characters in "Two Gentlemen of Verona."
    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Peterborough's Actors Circle Theatre prepares their  Shakespeare in the Park production, "Two Gentlemen of Verona," during a dress rehearsal in Peterborough's Depot Park on Sunday afternoon.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Peterborough's Actors Circle Theatre prepares their Shakespeare in the Park production, "Two Gentlemen of Verona," during a dress rehearsal in Peterborough's Depot Park on Sunday afternoon.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Peterborough's Actors Circle Theatre prepares their annual Shakespeare in the Park production "Two Gentlemen of Verona" during a dress rehearsal in Depot Park on Sunday afternoon.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Peterborough's Actors Circle Theatre prepares their annual Shakespeare in the Park production "Two Gentlemen of Verona" during a dress rehearsal in Depot Park on Sunday afternoon.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Heather McCormick of Greenfield, left, playing the female lead and love of Valentine, hears a secret from her waiting woman Lucetta, played by Veda Crewe of Swanzey, Mass.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Heather McCormick of Greenfield, left, playing the female lead and love of Valentine, hears a secret from her waiting woman Lucetta, played by Veda Crewe of Swanzey, Mass.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Sylvia, played by Kimberly Miller of Jaffrey, is sought after by Valentine, left, played by Jason Barshevsky of Gardner, Mass.; Thurio, played by Bryan Hebert of Antrim; and Proteus, played by Garrett Zecker of Northampton, Mass.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Sylvia, played by Kimberly Miller of Jaffrey, is sought after by Valentine, left, played by Jason Barshevsky of Gardner, Mass.; Thurio, played by Bryan Hebert of Antrim; and Proteus, played by Garrett Zecker of Northampton, Mass.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Proteus, played by Garrett Zecker of Northampton, Mass., left, hatches a plan with the Duke of Milan, played by Michael Redmond of Jaffrey, and Thurio, played by Bryan Hebert of Antrim, to woo the character of Sylvia from his friend Valentine. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Proteus, played by Garrett Zecker of Northampton, Mass., left, hatches a plan with the Duke of Milan, played by Michael Redmond of Jaffrey, and Thurio, played by Bryan Hebert of Antrim, to woo the character of Sylvia from his friend Valentine.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • At a dress rehearsal Sunday of "The Two Gentlemen of Verona" in Depot Park, Alana Korda of Jaffrey, playing Panthina, right, interrupts her friend Antonia, played by Alix Woodford of Greenfield, in the middle of a shot to advise her to send her son to Milan, while their caddy, played by Jakob Stone of Harrisville, looks on. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Scott Gardner of Rindge, left, and Bert Torsey of Marlborough play Speed and Launce, the servants of the main characters in "Two Gentlemen of Verona." <br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Peterborough's Actors Circle Theatre prepares their  Shakespeare in the Park production, "Two Gentlemen of Verona," during a dress rehearsal in Peterborough's Depot Park on Sunday afternoon.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Peterborough's Actors Circle Theatre prepares their annual Shakespeare in the Park production "Two Gentlemen of Verona" during a dress rehearsal in Depot Park on Sunday afternoon.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Heather McCormick of Greenfield, left, playing the female lead and love of Valentine, hears a secret from her waiting woman Lucetta, played by Veda Crewe of Swanzey, Mass.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Sylvia, played by Kimberly Miller of Jaffrey, is sought after by Valentine, left, played by Jason Barshevsky of Gardner, Mass.; Thurio, played by Bryan Hebert of Antrim; and Proteus, played by Garrett Zecker of Northampton, Mass.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Proteus, played by Garrett Zecker of Northampton, Mass., left, hatches a plan with the Duke of Milan, played by Michael Redmond of Jaffrey, and Thurio, played by Bryan Hebert of Antrim, to woo the character of Sylvia from his friend Valentine. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

The roaring ’20s, flappers and mobsters aren’t what come to mind when Shakespeare is mentioned. But that may change after the Actor’s Circle Theatre’s Sixth Annual Shakespeare in the Park, which this year sets Shakespeare’s first play, “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” in the middle of Prohibition .

Last year, Actors Circle Theatre, a community nonprofit theater based in Peterborough, presented “The Tempest,” which is considered to be the last of Shakespeare’s plays. This year, Director Chris McCartie of Keene decided to take on the opposite end of Shakespeare’s career with “The Two Gentlemen of Verona,” thought to be Shakespeare’s first play. McCartie took the play and brought it in to the modern era, he said in a phone interview Monday.

The play, a comedic love story, revolves around two main couples. The play begins by introducing best friends Proteus and Valentine, the two eponymic Gentlemen of Verona. Valentine, while visiting Milan, becomes embroiled in a love rivalry with another man, Thurio, for the affections of a woman named Sylvia. Meanwhile, Proteus is involved with another woman, Julia, until he, too, makes a visit to Milan and falls for the lovely Sylvia. Julia, desperate to win back Proteus, disguises herself as a pageboy to be closer to him, but only ends up conveying Proteus’ love letters to Sylvia. The play will be held outdoors at the Depot Square Park in Peterborough, located behind the Toadstool Bookshop, this weekend and next.

McCartie said the 1920s update seemed to make sense. The roaring ’20s was a time when a lot of young men were striking out on their own and worldly trips like the one Proteus and Valentine take to Milan were popular among the upper class. It also allowed McCartie to play with the physicality of the play. A scene when rivals Thurio and Valentine are exchanging verbal jabs, for example, is now set during a genteel tennis match that gets more heated as the remarks get more biting.

The actors, many of whom are returning to Actors Circle Theatre for their second or third season with the company, agreed that the modernization works for this play. “I think it gives an interesting flavor to the characters, and I think a lot of the characters are suited to the ’20s feeling, and the mobster, Chicago, flapper scene,” said Heather McCormack of Greenfield, who plays Julia.

Jason Barshevsky of Gardner, Mass., who plays Valentine, agreed with McCormack. “I feel the show is more appropriate for the 1920s,” he said. “A lot of the themes that go along with the show are prevalent in the 1920s, and I feel it works better than just setting it in Elizabethian Europe. I really like the setting it’s in.”

Barshevsky was partnered once again this year with Garrett Zecker of Northhampton, Mass. Last year, the two were cast as the comic relief duo Trinculo and Stephano in “The Tempest,” and this year they play the two gentlemen of the title. Barshevsky’s chemistry with Zecker is a big part of why the play works, Barshevsky said. “The chemistry that Garrett and I have for each other is very similar to the platonic male love that our characters were displaying in ‘Tempest,’ and those same sentiments are transposed in this play,” he said. In fact, he said, most of the cast is returning to the production from previous years, and have worked together before, which helps to ease the process.

This will be McCormack’s her third year in a row with ACT. Participating with the troupe was her first exposure to acting in a Shakespeare play, she said. This year, some medical issues made the process more difficult for her, especially as Julia is the biggest part she’s had in a Shakespeare in the Park production so far. In March, she experienced a seizure and the side affects of the medication she’s been on since have made a difference in how she’s had to prepare for the part.

“I’ve had a lot harder time memorizing lines,” she said. “I used to be able to memorize lines really quickly and easily, and this year I’ve noticed it’s taking a lot more effort. But in the long run I think that makes it a better experience, because you have to put a lot more into it.”

Actors Circle Theatre will perform “The Two Gentlemen of Verona on Aug. 3, 4, 10 and 11. All shows begin at 5 p.m. and are free to the public, although donations are accepted. No seating is provided. In case of rain, the show will be moved to the Monadnock Center for History and Culture at 19 Grove St. in Peterborough.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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