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Sunday, Sep. 25, 2016

Review: Scene stealers abound in updated version of Shakespeare comedy

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

'This shoe be my father....' Jerry Winsett as the servant Launce, gets the crowds laughing as he uses his shoes and staff to demonstrate how sad his parents and sister are at his departure from Verona -- but not his dog, Crab. 'Now the dog all this while sheds not a tear nor speaks a word!"
(Submitted photo)
There is an old saying in the acting world that you should never share the stage with kids or dogs because they'll always steal the scene.

Someone should have told Diesel the Dog not to share the stage with Jerry Winsett.

I always know I'm going to get a huge laugh when he shows up, but I'm never quite sure what directions it's going to come from. He can droop a subtle eyebrow and wave extravagant arms in comic gesture, but he's always going to make me laugh.

I want to say, if for no other reason, go see the Tennessee Shakespeare festival's "Two Gentlemen of Verona (Tenn.)" for Winsett's performance as the servant Launce, if nothing else.

But then, I think about Bobby Wyckoff's turn on stage as the servant Speed and laugh again. Think of a slightly more intelligent Barney Fife, or maybe if Barney's loose-jointed and awkward body were possessed by Andy in some of his more mischievous moments ... Wyckoff can do more with body language than most overpaid movie stars can do with scripts, coaches, and their agents holding their hands.

The scene where he has to lead the slightly-less-than brilliant Valentine (Patrick Waller, whose acting is brilliant, even if his character isn't) to the conclusion that the girl he loves actually loves him back. Through comic body language and perfect inflection, he forces the concept into Valentine's head until the audience can practically see the light bulb go on, and breaks out in laughter.

You need to go for that one scene, if nothing else...

Then there's Martha Wilkinson, who takes on two roles, and both of them outrageously funny. You need to go see "Two Gents" for her, if nothing else ...

Or Waller, or Vann, or Carey Kotsionis and Christina Spitters, who play the love interests and have beautiful singing voices...

Or Joey Waldrop as the state trooper ...

Or any of the other actors ...even Diesel the Dog...

Or the music. Matthew Carlton, and actor and composer of some 30 years and who proudly claims to be the only actor he knows of to appear on both "America's Most Wanted" and "Masterpiece Theater," has written new lyrics, with Elizabethan phrases, to the tunes of classic country and rockabilly songs -- with Elizabethan origins. Waller and Vann harmonize well, both in singing and acting, but when Winsett and Wyckoff sing about going down, down, down in the infernal flame, it's priceless.

You need to go for the music, if nothing else ...

I think a lot of people are put off of Shakespeare because some of the language is hard to follow -- when it's read from a book. Not so, on stage. Even if you don't catch every nuance of every phrase -- I was an English major with an emphasis on Shakespeare and I still have those Huh? moments -- the action and the body language will fill in the gaps when the direction is good.

And the direction is very, very good.

So if you only go see the Tennessee Shakespeare festival's production of "Two Gents," for any reason at all -- go because it's a fun show and you'll have a great time.

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