Last night I saw the American Shakespeare Center’s production of Ben Jonson’s The Devil is an Ass, the fifth and final play in ASC’s Actors’ Renaissance Season, which ends March 25. I didn’t realize until afterward how few performances of this show they were doing, but it turned out to be just four, counting the preview night, so last night was just the second real performance and the show closes next weekend. For me that explained the number of times the players had to call for lines, more than any other show I've seen at the Blackfriars. (In every case this was handled professionally and smoothly, usually with an unobtrusive “prithee” to which the prompter responded, um, promptly.)
The exciting thing for me was the virtually full house. When I called for tickets in the afternoon I was informed that all the reserved seating was taken and I’d have to settle for general admission, and I wasn’t alone so I’d say there were about 200 in the audience. That kind of attendance is great news for ASC.
The highlight of the play itself was probably Susan Heyward’s Pug, a lesser Devil who comes to earth to cause mischief but is out-devilled by conmen (especially John Harrell as Meerecraft) and fools (Christopher Seiler as Fitzdottrel). Meanwhile, Wittipol (Gregory John Phelps) is attracted to Fitzdottrel’s wife (Miriam Donald) and devises a scheme to seduce her right before the fool’s eyes. All good stuff and very funny.
The new season begins March 30 (Cyrano de Bergerac, Julius Caesar and A Midsummer Night’s Dream) when the touring company takes up residence through mid-June. The fall schedule should be announced very soon.