Bare Theatre’s Two Gentlemen of Verona Is a Light-Hearted Early Shakespearean Frolic


Carmen-Maria Mandley founded Bare Theatre in 2001, to perform a reading of William Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, and that encouraged her to try Much Ado About Nothing a little later. The company sort of languished until 2005, when Heather J. Strickland joined Mandley, and G. Todd Buker became the company composer and created the music for Titus Andronicus. The company subsequently staged Hamlet and then A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Buker stuck with Bare Theatre, and branched out into acting and then directing.

Bare Theatre does predominately Shakespeare, but has included some short original works by local playwrights. Buker stayed with them, gradually moving into acting and directing, and then serving as managing director. Mandley left the group in 2009, when Strickland took over; and in 2015, Buker became the company’s artistic director.

Two Gentlemen of Verona is thought to be one of the first plays Shakespeare wrote. It is considered to be unambitious, and to show limited playwriting experience. Perhaps for this reason, it is not frequently performed. This is too bad, for several reasons; it shows flashes of The Bard’s brilliance, it has some delightful characters, and it is marvelously funny. This is well pointed out by the FREE Bare Theatre production that we enjoyed Saturday afternoon, May 28th, in the courtyard of the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh. This play will be performed for free at several other open-air venues around the Triangle through June 30th.

Todd Buker and his able assistant director, Rowen Haigh, have cast an energetic ensemble of lively, quick-paced performers with athletic as well as dramatic and comedic skills. Four of them play multiple roles; and all of them are adept in the use of Shakespearean customs, fitting the action to the words and digging the subtleties of bawdy puns from every opportunity. Even the conjunctive “but” becomes a noun for these guys. Fight choreography by Heather Strickland, which includes an attempted rape, is theatrical and not overplayed.

A hallmark of Bare Theatre productions is to be found in their name — they entertain on a bare stage. An occasional set piece, chair, table, or stool is introduced; but otherwise your imagination supplies the set. Minimalist costumes, designed by Katie Moorehead, although vaguely modern, serve to define status and position.

Greta Marie Zandstra and Matt Fields star as Valentine and Proteus (photo by Mitch Amiano)
Greta Marie Zandstra and Matt Fields star as Valentine and Proteus (photo by Mitch Amiano)

Greta Marie Zandstra turns the tables on Elizabethan tradition, performing as Valentine and giving him a fine masculinity, with rolling shoulders and a kind of macho stalk.

Proteus, Valentine’s disloyal best friend, is played by Matt Fields , with no malice, but rather a careless self-interest that becomes easily forgiven.

Rebecca Ashley Jones, who plays Julia, becomes “Sebastian” as a way to observe her unfaithful Proteus, captures the soft femininity of a young woman and the agility of a youthful servant.

Sylvia, the love interest of three (count ’em) suitors, and the headstrong daughter of the Duke, is played with determination and force by Vera Varlamov. Dustin Britt flounces handily around as Speed, Valentine’s clownish, amphibolous servant; and Sara Leone interprets Launce, the garrulous and talkative, witty servant of Proteus, who carries with him his (real live) dog. She gives the male role the ribaldry that it deserves in true Shakespearean fashion.

Alexandra Finazzo, Courtney Christison, and Pimpila Violette double as he outlaws (with great mock ferocity) and other characters as well. Bobby Simcox alternates as Eglamour, Sylvia’s agent in her escape and Thurio her third suitor — and performs both roles well. The Duke is portrayed by Wayne Burtoft, who brings a dignified, regal bearing to the role.

We encourage you to take advantage of the numerous opportunities to watch this light-hearted early Shakespearean frolic during next month.

Greta Marie Zandstra and Dustin Britt star as Valentine and Speed in Bare Theatre's <em>Two Gentlemen of Verona</em> (photo by Mitch Amiano)
Greta Marie Zandstra and Dustin Britt star as Valentine and Speed in Bare Theatre’s outdoor production of Two Gentlemen of Verona (photo by Mitch Amiano)

SECOND OPINION: June 2nd Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods:; and May 30th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks:

Bare Theatre presents TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA at 7 p.m. June 3 and 3 p.m. June 4, 5, 11, and 12 in the “raleigh [ ] space” parklet at Deco Raleigh, 19 W. Hargett St., Raleigh, NC 27601; 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. June 18 at Brightleaf Square, 905 W. Main St., Durham, NC 27701; 6:30 p.m. at June 23 at The Frontier, 800 Park Offices Dr., Research Triangle Park, NC 27709; 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. June 25 and 3 p.m. June 26 at 140 West Franklin, 140 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill, NC 27517; and 8 p.m. June 30 at Mystery Brewing Public House, 230 S. Nash St., Hillsborough, NC 27278.

TICKETS: Admission is FREE, and tipping the performers is encouraged.

INFORMATION: 919-322-8819 or

SHOW: and




DECO Raleigh (June 3-5, 11, and 12): (directions:

Brightleaf Square (June 18): (directions:

The Frontier (June 23):

140 West Franklin (June 25 and 26): (directions:

Mystery Brewing Public House (June 30): (directions:


Two Gentlemen of Verona (c. 1589-93 comedy): (Wikipedia).

The Script: (Google Books).

Study Guide: (MIT).

William Shakespeare (English playwright and poet, 1564-1616): (Wikipedia).

G. Todd Buker (director and Bare Theatre artistic director): and (official websites), (Facebook page), and (Twitter page).


Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.