Shakespeare emerges from an open book

A set where the actors appear to spring from the pages of a book has been inventively created for the Shakespeare on the Sound production of "The Two Gentlemen of Verona in Rowayton's Pinkney Park that continues through June 29.

The concept originates from the vision of director Claire Kelly, of New Canaan, of Shakespeare's romantic comedy and the paradoxical twists of plot that lead us inevitably back to ourselves and the rapture and perplexities of our own lives.

Kelly characterizes the play as synthesis of an adventure story and a fairy tale "that reminded me of the beautifully illustrated books I enjoyed as a child."

"So I set the play as a giant book come to life where the characters in gorgeous, brightly colored costumes jump out creating the illustrations with their movement onstage," Kelly said.

The New York-based theatrical designer Brian Prather was recruited to transform Kelly's inspiration into a set where one-half of the book opens to become a backdrop and the other half forms the stage under the actors.

Prather, 40, has framed more than 100 productions from musicals like "Gypsy" to operas to off-Broadway shows such as "Becoming Dr. Ruth" and "Freud's Last Session." His showcase for "Two Gents" -- as the play is popularly called -- unfolds as a book wrapped in computer-generated text from Shakespeare's pages of script, enlarged into three-foot-wide strips fashioned of vinyl and stretched over the set, "creating the effect of a billboard" in Prather's words.

The scenery -- arches, columns, trees -- is two-dimensional and pop-up in shape, sculpted in the page motif, a style developed by British avant garde artist Su Blackwell.

Grier Coleman, also based in New York, projects the performers into the tableau in period costume representative of the classical era 1700 to 1750. Her costuming achievements extend from the Ringling Brothers Circus to Disney on Ice to the touring production of "Hair." Brian Feinstein, who provided an original music score for the Rowayton presentation last year, is back with only one number this time around, the company's 19th outdoor season. Most of the music is Mozart's.

"As confident as I think I am," Feinstein said, "I just can't compete with him."

Suggested donations are $20 for adults or $10 for seniors and students. Reserved seating is $35.

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