Classics in the Park, Ventura County's veteran summer Shakespeare company, has chosen for this year's touring production "The Two Gentlemen of Verona." It's considered to be the playwright's first comedy, and while not his most finely crafted work, it's certainly one of his silliest--just right for an afternoon or evening with the mosquitoes.
The title characters are young men with too much free time. Valentine moves to Milan and falls for Silvia, while his friend Proteus remains in Verona with his beloved Julia. Before long, Proteus winds up in Milan making every effort to make time with Silvia, double-crossing both his girlfriend back home and his best friend in Milan.
Director Toni Frisk, who also plays Julia, has opted for a very broad reading of the play, treating it as a series of set pieces involving one to three actors at a time and making it relatively easy to follow.
Our heroes, played with zest by Rob Cox and Paul Kouri, aren't very bright. In fact, not only are the women smarter than they are, but so are their servants and even a servant's dog.
Robert M. Grant is a standout as Valentine's wily page, Speed. Sharon Dasho's Silvia is rather controlled in contrast to Frisk's fluttery Julia. Aaron Roman Weiner is impressive as another of Silvia's suitors. And Lee Altmar, Charles A. Berg Jr. and Jim Diderrich clown it up as brigands who capture Valentine in one of the play's more unexpected plot developments.
One of Shakespeare's less frequently performed comedies, "The Two Gentlemen of Verona" turns out in this version to be well worthy of a look.
"The Two Gentlemen of Verona" continues Saturdays and Sundays through Aug. 4 at various sites throughout Ventura and Los Angeles counties. Unless otherwise noted, admission is free.
* Saturday, 8 p.m., Calabasas Tennis & Swim Center, 23400 Park Sorrento, Calabasas; Sunday, 3 p.m., Dennison Park, Highway 150 between Ojai and Santa Paula ($20 per carload); July 20, 5 p.m., Conejo Park, Dover and Hendrix avenues, Thousand Oaks; July 21, 3 p.m., Dennison Park ($20 per carload); July 27, 5 p.m., Barranca Vista Center, 7050 E. Ralston, Ventura; July 28, 7:30 p.m., Arts Council Center, 482 Greenmeadow Drive, Thousand Oaks ($5); Aug. 3, 6 p.m., Grape Arbor Park, Canwood Street and Parkville Road, Calabasas; Aug. 4, 8 p.m., Borchard Community Center, 190 Reino Road, Newbury Park ($5). Call 387-2747.
"Intelligent Life" in Santa Paula: Donna Kimball plays 14 characters in the Santa Paula Theater Center's new production, but we're assured that it isn't an attempt to save money while the group prepares to announce its long-delayed 1996-97 season.
Rather, the Los Angeles-based actress is performing "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe," a play written by Jane Wagner to display the multifaceted characterizations of her longtime partner, Lily Tomlin.
Kimball originally played "Search" in Florida, where its scheduled six-week run was extended to six months, and she won two local acting awards--without, she says, imitating Tomlin's own characterizations.
"Most of the time, producers cast four or five actors to play the (14 to 16) roles," she explains. "But the theme of the play is that we're all interconnected. It's an amazing piece of writing, which, more than anything else, is why I wanted to do it."
Kimball first played multiple roles in high school, where a portrayal of several characters in "a Sherlock Holmes kind of thing" carried her to sixth place--the highest ranking female, she notes--in the National Forensic Tournament.
After graduating from Memphis State University in Tennessee, Kimball moved to Florida, where she landed recurring roles in the TV series "Key West" and "Moon Over Miami." (Don't worry if you missed them, most of America did).
She also performed in many plays and appeared in commercials for Blockbuster Video, MCI and Wendy's. She reveals that the hamburger chain's founder, folksy Dave Thomas, is "exactly like he appears on TV, except that he has a Winnebago the size of New Jersey."
Having moved to Los Angeles two years ago, Kimball is now a puppeteer, playing a giraffe and other characters on the syndicated children's TV series "Jellybean Jungle." She's also a regular on HBO's "Tracey Takes On . . ." series, as Tracey Ullman's acting double. "From the front, I don't look like her at all, but from the back, the resemblance is terrific," she jokes.
* "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe" opens Friday night at the Santa Paula Theater Center, 125 S. 7th St. in Santa Paula, and runs through Aug. 11. Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturday, with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets are $12.50 adults; $10 for students and seniors. Call 525-4645.