Photo by Todd Collins

In an explosive finale to their season, the Department of Theatre brings war and love center stage in “The Two Noble Kinsmen.”

Their story opens with a celebration and a tragedy, as three queens plead for King Theseus to avenge their husbands’ deaths. The audience then meets young Palamon and Arcite, two cousins who willingly fight for their country but not necessarily their king. After they’re imprisoned and in the midst of desperately trying to keep their hopes up, the cousins find themselves at odds when they both spot the beautiful noblewoman Emilia and each proclaim their love for her.

Told in a fable-like fashion, “The Two Noble Kinsmen” expertly comingles the sadness with the joy. The comedy is sharp and quick, while the tragedy is heartbreaking and agonizing.

Tim Slover’s translation of the script by Shakespeare and Fletcher makes the material approachable and easy to follow while maintaining an otherworldly feel. The heightened language is reminiscent of legends and is crafted so beautifully that it feels only natural for this story.

Under the direction of Randy Reyes, the cast and creative teams have created a world far beyond our own, surrounded by war but still finding elements of festivity.

Even though the plot revolves around the relationship of the two cousins, the strength of the performance comes from the cohesive nature of the entire company. Reyes has succeeded in creating a sense of community among the performers that manifests throughout the piece.

Brandt Garber and Dominic Zappala give gripping performances as Arcite and Palamon respectively, finding specific and individual characters in an increasingly intertwined relationship. Ashley Marian Ramos brings fire and passion to her role as Emilia, showing both her compassion and leadership simultaneously.

Kali Scott, who plays the Jailer’s Daughter hopelessly in love with Palamon, manages to balance confidence and vulnerability through her character’s journey. While the Jailer’s Daughter can easily fall into stereotypes of acting “crazy,” Scott has developed her as a deep and genuine character. As Arcite and Palamon fight for their honor and the love of Emilia. Perhaps the only happy ending comes to the Jailer’s Daughter in the honest, sincere love she finds from the Wooer, played excellently by Coltyn Robert Giltner. Their relationship brings a tender touch to a tale of argument and quarrel.

Author Iris Murdoch once stated that “no high theory about Shakespeare is any good, not because he’s so divine but because he is so human.” Perhaps that is the best way to describe this particular production—it succeeds because it is so human. The power of the piece comes from the dramatic highs and the devastating lows, pulled together in an expert translation by Tim Slover with the capable and creative hands of Randy Reyes.

While those of us American-born and -raised may not truly know the experience of living in a war-torn land, this story is driven by emotions we all feel. Love, honor, jealousy, obsession, anger, affection and joy are all reflected in the eyes of these characters in very truthful and revealing ways. It is a story about young people that is portrayed by young people, which perhaps makes the elements of war and battle all the more painful to observe.

In the prologue, the actors invite the audience to join them on a journey, which allows the audience to become collaborators in the storytelling. It may require some initial suspension of disbelief, but “The Two Noble Kinsmen” is not to be missed in the long run.

“The Two Noble Kinsmen” opened this past weekend and runs through April 15. Tickets are available at the Kingsbury Hall box office, or online at www.theatre.utah.edu. Through the ArtsPass, students are eligible for one free and one discounted ticket with their UCard.

Learn more about the show in our previous interviews and stories here: dramaturground table (full transcript here), playwright and director.

c.heiner@dailyutahchronicle.com

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