Friday, October 22, 2021

"The Comedy of Errors" by Ten Thousand Things at Plymouth Congregational Church

Last night I saw Ten Thousand Things perform Shakespeare (live and in-person, which 20 months ago would have seemed like an absurd qualifier), and for about 90 minutes, it felt like everything was right with the world. No one does Shakespeare like Ten Thousand Things; no one makes it as understandable, relatable, relevant, and fun. And when you're talking about Shakespeare's silliest and most slapsticky comedy, The Comedy of Errors, it's all about the fun. With just six actors playing all 15 (or 47, who's counting) roles, it's a rollicking good time. Of course not all is right with the world, we're still very much in the thick of this pandemic, which means TTT can't do their most important work - bringing theater out into the community to people who aren't usually able to experience theater. But they can still do what they do for the people who show up at Plymouth Congregational Church, with a pay-what-you-can option to make it more accessible. And what they do is tell stories, in the most delightful and in-the-moment way imaginable, with all the lights on.

After a charming preamble that explains the situation we're in (audience wearing masks, more distance between actors and audience, a three-sided performance space instead of in-the-round) the tale begins. The Comedy of Errors features typical Shakespearean mistaken identity confusion, times two. Two sets of twins are separated at birth, one set the "master" and the other set hired (bought?) by their parents to be the "servants." One of each ends up with each parent, who are separated, never to meet again. Until 25 years later. Somehow the twins ended up with the same name, so when Antipholus and Dromio arrive in Ephesus, they're instantly mistaken for the Antipholus and Dromio who live there, and can't understand why everyone knows them but they don't know anyone. Even Antipholus' wife is fooled, and is not happy when her husband doesn't want to come home for dinner. Meanwhile, the "real" Antipholus and Dromio are locked out of their own home (because they're already inside) and are exasperated when people start accusing them of things they haven't done. At times the wrong servant approaches the wrong master with something entirely other than what he asked for. Much hijinks and confusion ensue, until after 90 minutes the two pairs meet in a hilarious scene where, after a moment of confusion, all is set right.*

Directed by Artistic Director Marcela Lorca, this cast is so playful and silly; whatever COVID limitations are placed upon them do not dampen the creativity and spirit of fun. Nubia Monks plays both Antipholuses (Antipholi?), and Danielle Troiano both Dromios, accomplished by simply donning a hat, a different accent, and a different way of walking and holding the body. It's really remarkable how clearly they're able to delineate the identical characters, and especially fun when they play both in one scene (including a particularly delightful Danielle arguing with herself from two sides of a gate). Playing multiple (non-identical) roles are Katie Bradley, most notably as Antipholus' exasperated wife Adriana; Cristina Florencia Castro as Adriana's martini-swilling sister, as well as the duke; Will Sturdivant as the twins' father and multiple other roles, including a fabulous turn in a wig and heels; and the great Sally Wingert as the twins' mother, a nun, and others, sometimes silently walking through a scene like a mafia don.

As always, Peter Vitale's one-man band creates a soundscape that punctuates the action, with lots of comic sound effects to accompany the revelry on stage. Sonya Berlovitz's colorful and playful costumes (including matching and sometimes sparkly tennies) help out with the quick character changes. Costume pieces and props are hidden behind a curtain just off stage behind which one character disappears and another one appears. The set primarily consists of those banner flags you see outside businesses, painted blue like the sea, with the baby twins and their separation adorably represented (set and prop design by Safa Sarvestani).

This fun, silly, and playful Comedy of Errors continues through November 21, with limited tickets still available, but going fast! Click here for info and tickets.