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Rave: Seattle Shakespeare's "The Two Gentlemen of Verona"

splashpageLivin' the dream: I just pulled off a Shakespeare two-fer and all is well with the world. Last night, "The Two Gentlemen of Verona," and this afternoon, "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

If you're thinking that means I just endured 6 hours of incomprehensible babbling by men wearing tights, you haven't seen what's shaking at the Center House Theatre. The creative vision, talent and cohesion of these performances - and virtually every performance I've seen by this company - inspire the sort of enthusiasm that drives one to sit indoors and blog on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

Take "Two Gentlemen" - the 500-plus-year-old comedic play about misplaced love and loyalty - and set it in California, then give it 2010 relevance. The set is simple; scene changes are accomplished by wall of video monitors (as are the occasional text message and phone-camera pix by the love-swoony characters). Add a right-this-minute soundrack (was that Ke$ha?), some beachy-chic attire and a mopey and apparently ancient bulldog, and you have created an aesthetic that somehow - somehow - manages to enhance rather than detract from the powerful language of Shakespeare's first-ever play.

Goofing on Shakespeare ought to be annoying; it's not. In the hands of SS's Stephanie Shine and George Mount, it is thrilling, a marvel to see. At 3 hours long - and with one very intense scene of forced affection - this play is best for savvy 12-year-olds and older. I'll be returning with the kids; this play is exactly how you create teenage Shakespeare lovers.

Then, this morning, I took said kids to a one-off public performance of Seattle Shakespeare's traveling production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." The shortened, 90-minute version of the twisted fairy tale held a packed house of kiddies rapt and laughing, even though it the language was pure Shakespeare! Spirited, physical performances, impeccable timing, gorgeous, whimsical puppets and plenty to look at - I've got to believe that this production is making a believer out of a lot of little kids. Tickets were specially priced (my youngest was $2). Don't know when that chance will come again (Passport subscribers got an early heads-up; sign up and we'll keep you posted).

"The Two Gentlemen of Verona" plays through April 11. Highly recommended.

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