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12/19 Dear Anne


Tonight I saw “Two Gentlemen of Verona” at the Folger Shakespeare Library in a small 200-seat theater. It’s not his best play (maybe his 1st) but there was a lot in it that made me thoughtful—about how it’s the romantics who dream and sing and talk incessantly about love but in the end prove to be rogues capable of the cruelest and falsest and most self-centered behavior (“the taller the oak, the larger the shadow”). And how those who come to love with the most difficulty and the greatest innocence and almost reluctance are capable of great feats of selflessness. But mostly what awed me about the production was the radiance and confidence of the actors. When I got home I read the play for the first time and saw how much they added to its rough outline, humaneness, not with adding new words or changing a scene, but by adding stage business, slapstick, and by making certain inspired choices not implicit in the text but respectful to the play itself. In fact it was in the moments when they slowed the play down that they connected most strongly with the audience—and they were able to do this with a 400-year-old play, and a terrible play in parts, especially the ending, which they played with self-conscious incredulity at what was happening, as if they couldn’t believe it themselves. Their performances were so vivid and alive that I still haven’t gotten over it or settled down or been able to sleep, four hours later. I feel unnerved and bottomless and off-center.



[From the author’s Washington D.C. Notebook, originally published in NHS 2006,http://www.poetspath.com/napalm/nhs06/Roark.htm.]