William Shakespeare's early and utterly average comedy stands out for its climactic scene, where antihero Proteus (Thomas Bigley) attempts to rape sweet, sensible ingenue Silvia (Jennifer Bronstein), only to find himself engaged to first love Julia (Amanda Marquardt) within five minutes. Like many good Bard heroines, Julia has disguised herself as a boy. Proteus' pat reconciliation with both damsels can either be seen as the play's weakness or its brilliance as it leaves us exiting the theater still chuckling, but with a knot in our belly. Otherwise, the play is a barrage of witticisms on love, and against love, that director Charles Pasternak (also playing Proteus' best friend and rival, Valentine) can't quite shape. He settles instead for trying to make his actors inflate the froth with plummy, fast-pattered recitations and a whole mess of screaming and mugging. It's amusing and toothless fun that allows the beagle who sneezed throughout Act 2 to walk away with the most applause, along with his goofy master, Launce (Jack Leahy), who had the audience in giggles while listing the talents of his mistress: sewing, brewing, milking, washing, scouting, knitting, spinning, fetching and carrying too bad she's got bad breath, he shrugs.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3:30 p.m. Starts: Dec. 21. Continues through Jan. 13, 2007