Saturday, January 15, 2011

American Shakespeare Center: The Comedy of Errors

I saw The Comedy of Errors at the American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Playhouse last night and was reminded of what I love about that place: high-energy performances, great actors, terrific music, appreciative audiences. You’ve got to see it.

I was in the first rownot where I usually sitso I didn’t get a great look at the rest of the audience, but I got a very good look at the actors. (The audience was pretty interesting, from what I could see, though: a lot of people in Elizabethan costumes, plus a number of visitors who looked like they might have been from India and Africa.)

"Comedy" isn’t a brilliant play, but it is hilarious, with lots of jokes and slapstick opportunities, which the actors exploit fully. In fact, it’s a pretty silly story: twin boys, boys, both named Antipholus, served by twin boys, both named Dromio, are separated from their parents. Now, many years later, they all wind up in Ephesusdressed exactly alike, somehowand the opportunities for mistaken identity are nearly endless.

This production is part of the Actors’ Renaissance Season, in which the resident company, without directors, puts on five shows in repertory, mounting each in a very short rehearsal period. It’s amazing, and I think that’s one thing that contributes to the high energy. The whole experience is breathtaking. Last night, everyone was excellent. The Antipholusesstraight men, for the most partwere played by Patrick Midgley and John Harrell and the comic Dromios by Gregory Jon Phelps and Tyler Moss. (Harrell is an ASC fixture and Midgley just completed the Summer/Fall season; it’s great to have Phelps and Moss back in town, as both are audience favorites.) Adriana, the wife of Antipholus of Ephesus, is played perfectly by Sarah Fallon and her perky sister, Luciana, is Miriam Donald.

Favorite moments:
·      * Phelps as Dromio of Syracuse describing Nell:
“she's the kitchen wench and all grease;
and I know not what use to put her to but to make a
lamp of her and run from her by her own light. I
warrant, her rags and the tallow in them will burn a
Poland winter: if she lives till doomsday,
she'll burn a week longer than the whole world.

·       * Harrell as Antipholus of Ephesus telling the Duke all the crazy things that have happened
·       * The appearance of Chris Johnston as the Courtesan, but made up as a Geisha
·       * Allison Glenzer’s onstage costume change near the end of the play (but I won’t say more about that so I don’t spoil it for anyone)

ASC did Comedy not long ago, when the touring company took it on the road and then brought it back to Blackfriars. Here’s what I had to say about that production: 2009 Comedy of Errors 

You won't want to miss this one.

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