Totally ’80s Shakespeare as Theatre UAB presents “Two Gentlemen of Verona” from March 4-8

UAB Department of Theatre’s bodacious Bard: Two pals fall for the same girl in a reimagined John Hughes-meets-Shakespeare world — 40 years since first performing the play in 1984.

Theatre UABAuditionsProgramAn audition flyer and program for the UAB Department of Theatre's 1984 production. The current production of the play is set in the 1980s. will present some “totally bodacious” Bard from March 4-8, with Shakespeare’s “Two Gentlemen of Verona” — set in the 1980s.

In a reimagined John Hughes-meets-Shakespeare world, things go comically awry when two high school pals fall for the same girl. It will be directed by Santiago Sosa, whose production is packed with doublets, letterman jackets, boomboxes, swords and crimped hair.

“As a Gen X-er, I grew up with two older sisters who were very much into ’80s pop culture,” Sosa said. “I love music videos to this day, and this production is an ode to that time in my life.” 

Theatre UAB is the performance company of the University of Alabama at Birmingham College of Arts and SciencesDepartment of Theatre

“Two Gentlemen of Verona” is set for performances at 7:30 p.m. March 4-8, in UAB’s Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center, Sirote Theatre. Tickets are $12-$15; $10 for students, UAB employees and senior citizens. For tickets, call 205-975-2787 or visit

A special guest artist for this production is actor James Ridge of American Players Theatre, whose mentorship was instrumental to Sosa. Ridge is working with students on their characters and his approach in rehearsals and will play the role of The Duke. His visit to UAB is made possible by a generous gift from the Jemison Fund. Ridge has worked with Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, Renaissance, Next Act, Forward, Madison Repertory and Utah Shakespeare Festival, among other credits.

Theatre UAB’s “The Two Gentlemen of Verona,” 7:30 p.m. March 4-8, in UAB’s Alys Stephens Center. Tickets $10-$15. Call 205-975-2787 or visit


Theatre UAB first presented this play as a musical in 1984, and the production featured UAB junior Jack Cannon. Now 40 years later, and purely by chance, it will be performed again and set in the 1980s. Cannon, who graduated in 1985, is now assistant professor of Theatre, and will also perform in this production. Michael Mercardo will play Launce, the role Cannon had, and serve as fight captain.

The 1580s and 1980s had some things in common, Sosa says. Shakespeare was writing in England at a time when London was experiencing extreme growth as well as poverty and inequality among the social classes. Elizabeth I was sitting on the throne at a time when religion and politics began to be more intertwined. 

1206659040638349.TJQT3G5EPmPZrhllbPvr height640Shakespeare was very much highlighting the theological and philosophical themes of free will, predestination, fate and God’s will, to name a few, in his plays to appeal to his audience. He was also writing stories that shone a light on such historical elements as the monarchy and succession, which could often be troublesome for playwrights as many of their plays had to clear certain censors, Sosa says. Censorship of sexual and violent music lyrics, and challenging creative thought, was a significant issue in the 1980s. It was also a time of massive growth after the recession at the beginning of the decade. England in the 1580s was very much about excess, just like the 1980s in the United States.

“This production seeks to showcase that excess with lights, live music, a nostalgic pop music soundtrack, projections, dance, movement, stage combat and a dog,” Sosa said. “We hope that this rarely produced comedy of Shakespeare’s will make you laugh, cry and think.” 

The cast is Ford Beshirs as Valentine, Darion Dewhirst as Speed, Kirk Kirkpatrick as Proteus, Hannah Moss as Julia, Michael Mercardo as Launce, Owen McManus as Eglamour, Celia Knox as Silvia, Peyton Siegel as Dario, James Taylor as Enzo, Alexandria Stone as Giulia, Ryder Dean as Moises, Ellie Cornett as Vallerius, Bunni Lerille as Panthino, Sawyer Luke as Donatella, Emma Chippindale as Lucetta, KK Murphy as Milan Troubadour and Travis Selton as Thurio. Understudies will include members of the cast plus Lily-Rose Sauger, Patrick Wilson, James Taylor and Alex Martin.