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‘Two Gents' presents successful Shakespeare modernization

(11/15/10 4:00am)

In large part, the show owes its success to several innovative choices made by director and theater department chair Peter Hackett, who is responsible for shifting the play's location from Verona to Hanover. Though toying with notions of time and place in Shakespeare's plays is not unheard of (see Baz Luhrmann's 1996 "Romeo + Juliet"), the maneuver is always risky, particularly when a director chooses to move the play to the present day. Modern-day adaptations run the risk of coming off as trite or cheesy (again, see Luhrmann's "Romeo + Juliet"), but Hackett exercises admirable restraint, coupled with a keen sense of humor, in his modern reimagining of Shakespeare's tale.

Rollin' with Dolan

(11/15/10 4:00am)

So I think I came up with a game-changing strategy for this column. Since this is always published on Mondays, I usually write it on Sundays. It recently dawned on me how terrible an idea this was, however, when I was taking a shower last Sunday. I had had (that's always weird, it's like "do do," except not funny) a pretty late night on Saturday and midway through my shower the next morning I couldn't remember if I had shampooed already or not. That's when it hit me if I was in such a state that I could not remember if I had shampooed, how the hell could I be even remotely clever in a column. Plus, on Sundays, I'm so stressed out from fantasy football that mentally I'm just not there. You know how girls complain that things like monthly cycles and birth control mess with their hormones and affect their moods? Fantasy football is the equivalent for boys. Instead of "that time of the month" though, it is only in the Fall and it is "that time of the week."

Briefly Noted

(11/15/10 4:00am)

Dartmouth women's soccer midfielder Chrissy Lozier '14 received her second Ivy League Rookie of the Week award in three weeks following the Big Green's season-ending 1-0 win against Cornell University. Crossing the ball to Aly O'Dea '12 in the 67th minute, Lozier helped deliver the only goal Dartmouth needed to beat Cornell and secure second place in the Ivy League. Lozier recorded a point in each of the last three games of the season. She ended her first Dartmouth season with three goals and three assists. She is also the only Ivy League freshman to win the Rookie of the Week award more than once.

Love Bites

(11/12/10 4:32pm)

“Love at First Bite,” an original musical penned by local celebrity Jodi Picoult and produced by Hanover’s own Trumbull Hall Troupe, is a campy delight. From wacky, off-the-wall characters to spooky sets and costumes, the performance is a joyous excursion into the ups and downs of life at a monster-infested high school. The show, which opens this evening, capitalizes on popular high school stereotypes — the cheerleaders and the jocks, the “good girl” who falls for the mysterious bad boy — but subverts our expectations of those characters to create a humorous effect. The play is the seventh annual production by the troupe, which was founded in order to “provide kids with a fun, educational theater experience that could also contribute to improving the lives of those less fortunate,” according to its website. All proceeds from the annual Trumbull production go directly to the Zienzele Foundation — a Vermont-based organization that supports HIV/AIDS orphans in Zimbabwe. The ingenious script was penned by Picoult — author of bestselling books including “My Sister’s Keeper” (2004) and “Nineteen Minutes” (2008) — with help from her teenage son Jake van Leer and longtime friend Ellen Wilber, an Enfield, N.H., middle school teacher who serves as both composer and musical director for the show. The playwrights have embellished the “Love at First Bite” script with some tactful local humor, adding a personalized charm to the show. The audience at the Wednesday night dress rehearsal was audibly amused by painfully accurate Hanover one-liners such as, “It’s like a parking lot outside of Lou’s — something you hear about but never actually experience.” Both Picoult and her son are also involved in the production in other capacities. Picoult co-directs the show with Alex Lovejoy, while Van Leer gives a standout performance as the misunderstood new kid, a vampire named Drake who falls in love with — and, initially, tries to hide his identity from — the notorious local “good girl,” Lucy. Thankfully, rather than taking a strictly serious approach to the couple’s ill-fated romance, Van Leer and his mother lighten the mood with ample puns (Bud light becomes “Blood Light,” for example; and congratulations, “coagulations”) and by mocking the Twilight franchise. Lucy, played demurely by Kyra Sanborn, strips her blouse unexpectedly in the second act to reveal a “Team Drake” shirt underneath, for example. This may sound like too much, but excess is essentially the purpose of the show. “Love at First Bite” is not a tale of torrid romance or a sophisticated comedy, but an exaggerated farce. Slapstick and tongue-in-cheek pop culture references lend the play its charm. Besides, I’d argue that where “Twilight” is concerned, nothing can really be too much. Just watch one of the movies. Although performed entirely by local middle and high school students, the show is impressively professional. Costumes and sets are elaborate affairs, evoking an appropriately outlandish high school universe. In the principal’s office, for example, a hand emerges from beneath the desk to deliver messages and office supplies. Similarly, Drake’s “Addams Family”-esque parents use a “skeleton table,” rolled on- and off-stage by a cast member whose legs are visible but upper body is concealed, to deliver their meals. Aside from technical innovations, the young actors deliver impressive performances. Van Leer and Sanborn have the standout voices in the show, collaborating in several harmonious duets. Molly Winer also gives an excellent performance as Ms. Stake, the belligerent school principal. With an acid tongue and a sincere aversion to Drake’s excessive use of hair gel, Ms. Stake is essentially (and intentionally, I’m fairly certain) Sue Sylvester from “Glee.” Instead of hating the high school glee club, however, Ms. Stake is determined to rid her school of vampires. And she’s traded in Sue’s trademark track suit for slightly classier business attire. Regardless, Ms. Stake is an exceedingly well-written character, played with panache by Winer. The rest of the characters in the large cast are equally imaginatively rendered and performed. From ditzy head cheerleader Britney to the large green exchange student (Frank N. Stein), the show is chock-full of fun and memorable characters. Even minor characters, such as Chrissy, the dumbest cheerleader on the squad, are drawn in great detail. The show’s success is not surprising, considering the Trumbull Troupe’s track record. Last year’s show, “Over the Moon” — written, like all the Troupe’s scripts, by Picault — was even published and made available for performance by other theaters. “Love at First Bite” opens Friday at 7 p.m. at Richmond Middle School in Hanover, with subsequent performances Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.