A tale of mistaken identity, rife with opportunity for broad comedy and slapstick, William Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors is a delightfully silly two hours traffic upon the stage. The popular director Aaron Posner brings his talents to this early work of Shakespeare and for the most part it is a fun evening of theater.
This is the tale of two sets of brothers separated as children by a shipwreck and when one set arrives in the other sets' town allows much hilarity to ensue over very silly circumstances. The Thespian is pleased to say that the actual Shakespeare upon the Folger Theatre's stage is quite an entertaining evening of merriment.
Not so much the "framing" device chosen to set the stage. When you arrive at the Folger you are greeted in the lobby by a card announcing the Worcestershire Mask and Wig Society's commemorative tour of the USA celebrating their 250th anniversary with a production of The Comedy of Errors. The head of the company introduces himself, gives a bit of background on the company and introduces their noble patron who is part of the company. Then we are forced to sit through a ten minute video on the WMWS, its history, and the relationships between the various company members. It was fun in the beginning, but The Thespian thought that the film was tedious and was watching it wondering when we were going to get to the Shakespeare.
Now, it is true that the audience was laughing at the pre-show, and for The Thespian if the film were cut, she wouldn't have had a problem with the concept. But, to be honest, none of it was needed. The play itself completely stands on its own. Once the play begins there is no attempt to make the twins look alike in height or weight and there is extensive use of masks for the male characters. Personally, The Thespian thought the use of masks was brilliant. You got the essence of the characters without having to notice the glaring "hey, he doesn't look like the other one's twin." The Thespian wonders why the masks were not extended to the female characters as well. The production works fine without them, but it might have added another interesting dimension to their performances.
The scenic design by Tony Cisek is quite clever involving a series of doors, an excellent device for the mania that ensues. A nice touch is providing doors in front of the permanent pillars which allows for some very funny moments. Kate Turner-Walker has created a mishmash of costume pieces that provide an easy way to tell the status of each of the characters.
All of the cast perform their roles well. Outstanding performances are given by Darius Pierce, Dromio of Ephesus and Nathan Keepers, Dromio of Syracuse. Both are capable and physical performers. Mr. Keepers in particular does a marvelous job describing his encounter with a spherical kitchen maid, which in The Thespian's opinion is one of the funniest speeches Shakespeare ever wrote. The four ladies, Catherine Flye as the Abbess, Suzanne O'Donnell, the shrewish Adriana, Erin Weaver, Luciana and Rachel Zampelli as a completely ditz Courtesan are equal matches to the men upon the stage. Bruce Nelson does well with the lesser seen Antipholus of Ephesus, but occasionally swallows his consonants. Darragh Kennan as Antipholus of Syracuse navigates well his character's bafflement and delight in his screwball day.
All in all it is a wonderful evening of theater. Do enjoy. The Comedy of Errors will be performed at the Folger Theatre through March 6, 2011. For tickets and other performance information please visit www.folger.edu.