Theatergoers at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, in its 28th season on a bluff overlooking the Hudson, tend to like the bard the same way: No sets, few props, clever actors.
“Two Gentlemen of Verona” — Tucker’s festival debut — features a fountain comprised of actors.
No sets? No problem.
If such an endeavor requires choreography, Tucker has Alexandra Beller of Bill T. Jones’ dance company on hand for advice.
As for the comedy, that is provided by the company, led in no small part by husband-and-wife team of Kurt Rhoads and Nance Williamson, two festival favorites who return to Boscobel after a couple of seasons’ absence. The Garrison residents play servants: she, Lucetta, maid to the lover, Julia; he, Launce, clownish servant to Proteus, one of the gentlemen of the title and Julia’s love interest.
The story involves friends Proteus and Valentine. Proteus falls in love with Julia and will not accompany Valentine on his adventure to Milan. After sending a love letter to Julia, Proteus is sent by his father to join Valentine, but not before Proteus and Julia vow their undying love and exchange rings.
No sooner is Proteus in Milan than he falls for Sylvia, to whom Valentine has taken a liking. When Julia arrives, disguised as a servant boy, and sees Proteus’ fickle nature, things get more and more complicated. Throw into the mix a betrayal of one gentleman by the other, a band of outlaws, a few wily servants and a real-life bulldog and there are the makings of an evening’s entertainment, with a happy ending guaranteed.
The young lovers are played by festival newcomers Ethan Saks (Valentine), Andy Rindlisbach (Proteus), Magancq Wiles (Julia), and Susannah Millonzi (Sylvia).
In rehearsal, Rhoads’ mind whirs with possibilities — actors call them “choices” — about how to play a scene in which he berates his canine companion, Crab, for his cold-heartedness. He tries it one way. The next time, he adds something new. And all without the bulldog who will, no doubt, change things once they begin working together. (That’s Rhoads and his canine co-star, in a photo by William Marsh, above.)
Director Tucker says the ease of Rhoads’ and Williamson’s craft makes his job easier.
“All you have to deal with is choices,” Tucker says. “You’re negotiating about ‘What if we try this? Or this? Or what about this?’ It has nothing to do with acting. They know how to act. With Kurt doing Launce, I almost never say anything. I just let him go. And the same with Nance.
“I figure with Kurt, one of the things he enjoys — and I love that, too — is that every night the audience is different. He doesn’t know what he’s going to get, so he has to embrace that. So I can’t really do much more than that. He has some bits he’s going to try, but he’s going to come up with a lot more between now and Aug. 30.”
“Two Gentlemen of Verona” appears in repertory with “Othello” and the David Ives adaptation of Pierre Corneille’s “The Liar” — three shows, one tent, one long, hot summer — through Aug. 31.
For his part, Tucker won’t have time to linger over his first time directing at Boscobel. He has reported to Shakespeare and Co. in the Berkshires, where he plays Brutus in “Julius Caesar” this summer.
Consider that another acting choice.
Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival’s 28th season, featuring Shakespeare’s “Othello,” directed by Christopher V. Edwards, Shakespeare’s “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” directed by Eric Tucker, and David Ives’ adaptation of Pierre Corneille’s “The Liar,” directed by Russell Treyz. Season runs through Aug. 31. 845-265-9575. hvshakespeare.org