If you’ve spent January in a funk, wondering how best to start the year’s remaining eleven months, look no farther than the Folger Theatre: you can laugh, laugh some more, and perhaps even shed a small tear with their current production of A Comedy of Errors, through March 6th.
Perhaps you consider Shakespeare too lofty or hard to understand; maybe visions of your excellent yet despotic high school English teacher make you break into a cold sweat anytime you hear the word “ere”; perhaps the cadence of iambic pentameter makes you itch; or maybe you don’t think Elizabethan theater is the kind of gig that could ever make you guffaw.
Boy, would you be wrong.
From the moment you walk into the Folger Theatre, you are met by an absolutely breathtaking set– it’s a tiny bit Edwardian Steampunk (and thank goodness we have Regretsy to help us know what does not qualify as such); definitely lovely, with bright colors and intricate woodwork; and a lot silly, with trick doors and a giant clock that keeps the play’s inside time for the audience. The Folger theater itself is a lovely, tidy thing of beauty– a jewelry-box version of the Globe, and worth the trip just to be seen.
And then, the duplicitous hilarity starts with a mockumentary: a theatre company from across the pond, the seemingly-earnest Worcestershire Mask and Wig Society (WMWS) tells us about their American tour; about staging the play; and about the society’s status as England’s oldest troupe, a claim quickly amended to reflect the fact that the WMWS has been inactive as a troupe almost as long as it has been in existence. This charming bit about the troupe seems to be an effective illustration of the greater theme of the play: the dynamics of interpersonal relationships as they affect the performers and the audience. It’s also very, very funny. Incidentally, even though it was originally dismissed as merely a funny Shakespeare romp and nothing else, A Comedy of Errors is now appreciated because of its source material and for the deep and insightful portrayals of close relationships, such as those between master and servant or strangers and natives, just to name a couple.
The production itself is as delightful and effortless-looking a piece of theater as you can ever hope to watch, or listen: the music, an often-overlooked or absent part of the theatrical experience is delightfully integrated here, with a jaunty street mime/pagliaccio (Jesse Terrill) setting up shop stage left. Throughout the whole show he fiddles mournfully; xylophones dreamily; tattoos punchlines in complicity; and provides a wonderful layer of something that can only be described accurately as “awesomeness.” The Dromios, (Nathan Keepers and Darius Pierce) with their goofy big eared and beaky-nosed masks, are especially wonderful to watch: their pratfalls, crashes, excitement of various kinds is conveyed with amazing synchronicity, as if you were watching a very agile version of yourself in a mirror. They bring the play to a close in a very funny and touching moment. The rest of the cast is absolutely wonderful as well– from the kittenish courtesan who moves upwardly by the end of the play, to the mournful father of the twins who may die before the day’s end and whose sudden joy at being reunited with family and servants is deeply moving, the cast is a delight to watch.
And watch you simply must: you can click on this link to buy tickets directly, or you can call the Folger Theatre box office at 202-544-7077.
The Folger Theatre is located at 201 East Capitol Street.