The Two Noble Kinsmen – The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre

Samantha Clarke
Philadelphia Theater Examiner

It’s a tale as old as time or, at least, as old as Chaucer. Two cousins, Palamon (Dan McGlaughlin) and Arcite (Chris Anthony) are primordially bonded together into an intimate band of brothers. They’ve shared everything: battles, women, and secret handshakes. Prisoners of war, they swear to be each others brothers, wives, and heirs. Their vow is written in the blood they shed on the battlefield; it cannot be broken. That is, until, from their prison window the kinsmen view the heavenly beauty, Emilia (played with a sincere luminosity by Laura Betz). The duo are torn asunder by their mutual love for Emilia as both pledge to win the woman’s heart.

THE TWO NOBLE KINSMEN at The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre is a rare gem (a FREE show part of the theatre’s Classical Acting Academy). The play is co-written by John Fletcher and scholars argue the quantity of Shakespeare’s work within the piece. At times, the play seems an homage to Shakespeare’s past works spliced into the rendering of Chaucer’s A KNIGHT’S TALE: the rude mechanicals who perform a play for Theseus and Hipployta (A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM) and the young innocent who loses her wits for love (HAMLET).

Regardless of its influences, this modern production is expertly directed by Aaron Cromie (who also directed TITUS ANDRONICUS and HENRY V at The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre). Embedded into the twisting and interwoven plots, is Cromie’s signature style of buffoonery, clear story telling, and sharp wit. Miraculously, he has taken a dense play riddled with mythological allusions and whittled it down to its truest form: a story about love and how we are all fools for it.

The cast, young professionals and students involved with the theatre’s Classical Acting Academy, are superb. From the endearingly naive face of the Jailor (Sam Sherburne), to the remarkably regal Hippolyta and Theseus (Tasha Milkman, Taylor Darden), to the kinsmen themselves (the handsome and charismatic Anthony and the expertly played McGlaughlin), the cast is a true delight. However, the hearty applause that fills the auditorium cannot be denied to the group of five ensemble members who carry the brunt of the work on their shoulders: the Clark Kent-esque Jason Cutts who plays the put-together Pirithous and the delightfully disheveled Wooer, Walter DeShields whose tail and tool are the talk of the town, thrice-cast Maryruth Stine whose dirty Doctor helps save the day for the Jailor’s Daughter, the guttural, rough-around-the-edges Sarah Knittel, and the stern (and hysterical) Schoolmaster played by Leeanna Rubin.

Don’t miss the most lamentable comedy and cruel death of THE TWO NOBLE KINSMEN at The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre!

Did I mention it’s FREE? But hurry! The show closes August 18th!

Tickets are first come, first serve at the Box Office (4:30 pm – 7pm, Wednesday through Saturday, 12:00 – 2:00pm, Sunday). All performances are held at The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre, 2111 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103, Wed-Sat @ 7pm, Sun @ 2pm. By the way, it’s FREE!