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Two Gents opens Bard gates

By Eric E. Harrison

This article was published June 5, 2014 at 2:27 a.m.

Jordy Neill plays at least one set of twins in The Comedy of Errors. Jordan Coughtry glowers in the title role of Hamlet. Kelly Karcher (from left ), Garrett Whitehead and Evan Tyrone Martin head up the cast of Pippin. The eventual couples in Two Gentlemen of Verona Two Gentlemen of Verona — (from left all cq) Brendan Marshall-Rashid, Jessica Dean Turner, Jordan Coughtry and Caroline Brooks.

Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre

7:30 p.m. today-Saturday, June 13 and 15, William Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona, Village at Hendrix, 1600 Washington Ave., Conway; 7:30 p.m. June 19, 21 and 22, William F. Laman Public Library System’s Argenta branch, 400 block of Main Street, North Little Rock. Pay what you can (suggested donation is $15).

7:30 p.m. June 20, 24, 26 and 28, 2 p.m. June 21 and 29, Shakespeare’s Hamlet; 7:30 p.m. June 11-12, 25 and 27, 2 p.m. June 13, 22, 25 and 27, Pippin (music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, book by Roger O. Hirson), Donald W. Reynolds Performance Hall at the University of Central Arkansas, 201 Donaghey Ave., Conway. Tickets are $28, $23 for senior citizens, students and active military members.

(866) 810-0012

CONWAY -- Two close friends fall in love with the same duke's daughter, leading to a series of mistaken identities and kidnappings and eventually, by Act V, a happy ending in which everybody ends up in the right couple.

That's William Shakespeare's comedy Two Gentlemen of Verona, with which the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre opens its eighth season today.

The University of Central Arkansas-based theater's annual outdoor production spends about a week at the Village at Hendrix, across Conway at Hendrix College -- shows at 7:30 p.m. today through Saturday and June 13 and 15, with a second set of performances at 7:30 p.m. June 19, 21 and 22 at the recently opened Argenta branch of the William F. Laman Public Library System on North Little Rock's Main Street.

"It's been a really fun rehearsal process," says the Shakespeare Theatre's producing artistic director Rebekah Scallet. She's directing the cast of 16, which includes Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre veteran Jordan Coughtry as Proteus, one of the two title characters. Coughtry, who played Feste the Jester in Twelfth Night in 2012, will also play the title role in Hamlet, June 20-21, 24, 26 and 28-29 at UCA's Reynolds Performance Hall.

"It'll be pretty intense for him this summer," Scallet says, noting that he also "wrote most of the original music for Two Gents, and plays the guitar and sings it."

Robert Quinlan will direct Hamlet using the same intimate setting he used for his 2012 production of Richard III, with the audience onstage surrounding the action. The company used the same method to stage King Lear in 2013.

Hamlet will play in repertory with the musical Pippin (music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, better known nowadays for Wicked), June 11-13, 22, 25 and 27 in the Reynolds Performance Hall. Garrett Whitehead has the title role of the son of Charlemagne, trying to find himself and a purpose for his life in the midst of medieval mayhem.

Scallet says the onstage violence is highly stylized and shouldn't worry parents.

"He's just graduated from college and he doesn't know what's next," Scallet says. "One of the things he tries is war, but with [hacked] limbs flying everywhere, he decides that's not for him."

The festival will also feature its annual production for young audiences, an adaptation of Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors onstage at Reynolds on June 24, 26 and 28 and also touring the state, with performances at the William F. Laman Public Library System's Main Library, 2801 Orange St., North Little Rock, on June 14, at Bentonville's Crystal Bridges Museum on June 18 and the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute on Petit Jean Mountain near Morrilton on June 28.

Weekend on 06/05/2014

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