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Published on June 12th, 2012 | by RLn Staff

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Bard of Avon’s 15th Season of Free Plays

By John Farrell

Shakespeare by the Sea opened their remarkable 15th season of free plays by the Bard of Avon last Thursday at San Pedro’s Point Fermin Park Bandshell, which has been their home base as they spread the Shakespearean words to audiences this year in 23 different venues around the Southland in three different counties.

It was a festive evening with warm breezes (a rarity at Pt. Fermin) caressing the large audience.

But the play’s the thing, and, trying as hard as they could, the adept cast just couldn’t make much of the evening’s offering, Two Gentlemen of Verona, an early work by Shakespeare that is pretty much saved from total obscurity by the performance of a dog.

That dog is Crab (Victor is his off-stage name) and though he is on only three times he steals the show every time, kissing his master Launce (Ben Hackney) every chance he gets. Victor is a rescue dog, but there are no scars visible or otherwise. He is charming, friendly and a great distraction. Launce, not incidentally, is the one great character in an otherwise mediocre or even worse play. Hackney knows you’ll love the dog and you’ll love him as well, and he plays to that strength, imitating Crab, charging all over the stage, creating a great performance but all too briefly. Director Margaret Schugt does a great job with the play, opening it up to the audience, making sure the action is heard and the actors in full voice (except for a couple of pesky floor mics.) But she can’t make the play better than it is.

The story is about two best friends, Proteus (Charlie Woods) and Valentine (Garret Replogle) and their respective loves Silvia (Amani Dorn) and Julia (Kristina Treves). Silvia decides to follow Proteus when he leaves Verona and disguises herself as a boy. When she gets to the court of Milan she finds Proteus in love with Julia and trying to get her away from, his best friend and from Thurio (Joshua Aguilar). The Duke (the clever David Graham dressed as a poor man’s Napoleon) wants Thurio as a son-in-law, but after many not particularly funny contretemps she is given to Valentine, Proteus gets Silvia, everything turns out well and the dog gets a well-deserved ovation.

You will have to wait to Romeo and Juliet (which starts Thursday, June 14) to see the Shakespeare everyone loves. This is him as a struggling playwright, not having found his voice. But you are sure tolove Crab, and he is enough for an evening out-of-doors. (Crab, by the way, has been tweeting at @CrabTheDog2012 if you want to know more.)

Admission is free. Performances are Thursday, June 14, Friday, June 15 and Saturday, June 16 at 8 p.m. in San Pedro, with many other performances at other venues.

Details: (310) 217-7596,
Venue: Point Fermin Park Bandshell
Location: 807 Paseo del Mar, San Pedro

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