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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Door Shakespeare enlivens ‘Comedy of Errors’

The actors’ performances are vivid and fun-loving.
Door Shakespeare (Warren Gerds)
Door Shakespeare (Warren Gerds)
Michael Perez
Michael Perez
Jesse Dornan
Jesse Dornan

PHOTO: From left, David Folsom, Danny Junod, Leslie Ann Handelman and Michael Perez perform a scene in the Door Shakespeare production of “The Comedy of Errors.” Jason Fassl photo

BAILEYS HARBOR, Wis. (WFRV) – Who’s on first, What’s on second and I Don’t Know’s on third. Ha! – That classic vaudeville head-scratcher has nothing on William Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors,” which has been romping around for 400-something years. For starters, we get the character Antipholus times two (identical twins) being served by Dromio times two (identical twins). From there, the plot has more roundabouts than in a DOT designer’s dreams.

Door Shakespeare is running a strong production of “The Comedy of Errors” (4½ stars out of 5) in repertory with “King Lear” outdoors through Aug. 16 at Bjorklunden garden. Info: www.doorshakespeare.com.

Acting is crisp, clear and filled with nuances. This production, directed by Leda Hoffmann, is more than recitation. Characters are vivid.

The appeal of “The Comedy of Errors” operates on many levels. Not only does Shakespeare adroitly maneuver through the mechanics of farce, his characters drop juicy lines of self-assessment and human behavior that has changed little over the centuries.

For example, to paraphrase Antipholus of Syracuse: “A trusty villain… when I am dull with care and melancholy, lightens my humor with his merry jests.

Shakespeare’s merry jests include Antipholus of Syracuse so smitten by the sister of his twin’s wife that he implores her with (paraphrasing), “Teach me, dear creature, how to think and speak; lay open to my earthy-gross conceit, smothered in errors, feeble, shallow, weak… Are you a god? Would you create me new?

In this performance, words dance, flow and glow.

Shakespeare still is difficult, for sure, but the cast has a knack of coloring the way with gesture, expression, timing, emphasis and enunciation. It’s a team effort because so much is interlocking, particularly the diabolical pieces with the two sets of twins who can’t quite figure out why things aren’t fitting together. Acting is excellent in key roles – Michael Perez and Jesse Dornan as the two Antipholuses, Joe Boersma and Charlie A. Wright as the two put-upon Dromios and Leslie Ann Handelman as the fuming (sometimes steamy) wife of Antipholus of Ephesus.

As is Door Shakespeare’s situation, the set is minimal, with the floor being wood chips. A huge maple tree is a house, sort of, with two doors. Street scenes take place in the audience’s mind. The focus is on the characters and characterizations, helped by costuming of a time past (not necessarily 400-something years ago), with emphasis on the twins’ duplicated garb. The recorded music is spirited.

The setup is bizarre and for the fun of it, and the show is quite fun.

***

Creative: Playwright – William Shakespeare; director – Leda Hoffmann; costume designer – Caitlin Lux; production stage manager – Melissa Wanke; lighting designer/production manager – Jason Fassl; fight choreographer/costume assistant – Dan Klarer; executive director – Amy J. Ludwigsen.

Cast: Antipholus of Ephesus – Michael Perez; Antipholus of Syracuse – Jesse Dornan; Dromio of Ephesus – Joe Boersma; Dromio of Syracuse – Charlie A. Wright; Adriana, wife of Antipholus of Ephesus – Leslie Ann Handelman; Luciana, sister of Adriana – Elyse Edelman; Solinus, Duke of Ephesus – Richard Ooms; Egeon, a Merchant of Syracuse – Jonathan Nichols; Balthasar, a Merchant – Danny Junod; Angelo, a Goldsmith – David Folsom; First Merchant – Victoria Caciopoli; Second Merchant – Joe Bianco; Emelia, Abbess at Ephesus and Egeon’s Wife – Claudia Wilkens; Courtesan – Jennefer Ludwigsen; Jailor – Ross Destiche; Officer – Andres N. Chaves.

***

THE VENUE: The theater space is outdoors. The performance area is a patch of wood chips beneath a majestic, eye-catching 70-foot maple tree with shaggy bark. For “The Comedy of Errors,” performance entrances and exits are along aisles, from areas stage left or stage right and through two wooden doors near the tree, the “V” of which serves as a window in one scene. Seating for about 160 is on three platforms facing the performance space. The theater is about a mile of winding road off of Highway 57. Bjorklunden is a 405-acre wooded site along the shore of Lake Michigan that is owned by Lawrence University of Appleton.

You may email me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air features on WFRV between 6 and 8 a.m. Sundays.

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