Regional Reviews: Minneapolis/St. Paul
Two new Minneapolis productions
Merry errors abound in Guthrie's radiant Comedy of Errors
With Theater de la Jeune Lune's Dominique Serrand in charge of Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors, the thoroughbred hunter of the Guthrie transforms into a frolicking colt that revels in the sheer joy of larking about.
Comedy tells the story of two pairs of identical twins, separated as babies, who cause the cheerful mayhem of mistaken identity when the Syracuse master-and-servant pair turn up in the town of the matching Ephesus twins. Neither master can distinguish his servant from the other, and vice versa, let alone all the expectations that a wife, courtesan and merchants place on the wrong pair. Ripe stuff, and the highly original Serrand directs Comedy with subtle yet madcap panache.
The center-stage trap door drops when it shouldn't, an upside-down table is righted, but the screwed-down drinking cups cannot be picked up, an officer's cell phone rings in the middle of an arrest, and Antipholus of Syracuse catapults to the ground as he trips on Adriana's stage-wide skirt. Zany? Absolutely. And oh, what fun!
Judson Pearce Morgan seems to have as much fun playing both Antipholus' as I had watching him. His Antipholus of Syracuse is slightly awkward in the way that a tourist is when he's away from his own country. As Antipholus of Ephesus, he's confident and potent; I had no trouble distinguishing between the two.
The two servants, both called Dromio of course, are played with zest and physicality by Randy Reyes and, here, costume designer Fabio Toblini helps the audience out. He gives Dromio of Ephesus a yellow blazer and a hat. Other stands-outs in a strong, mostly local cast are Michelle O'Neill as Adriana, Bob Davies in the role of Balthasar, Nathan Keepers as a merchant, Bradley Greenwald as a singer, Guthrie usher and Dr. Pinch and the two Baldwin sisters as singers and the courtesan.
Toblini's fantastical costumes zap the eyeballs and match Serrand's fantastical directing style. Serrand designed the deceptively simple set of a construction plastic back-screen, a box-like seascape and a foreshortened thrust stage. His reduction of the stage creates a moat between the audience and the players in which Eric Jenson and his five musicians play, and a group of "helpers" interact with what's happening on stage.
Does Serrand's remarkable Comedy ever over-reach itself? Well, yes, but I forgive it, because it's as delightful to watch as a playful colt, kicking its heels on a spring day.
Comedy of Errors, running through November 3 at the Guthrie Theater, 725, Vineland Place, Minneapolis. $16-$46. Call 612-377-2224 or visit www.guthrietheater.org.
Wings at Theater Latte´ Da flies but does not soar
Theater Latte´ Da's imaginative Wings, a musical adaptation of Arthur Kopit's acclaimed 1979 play, took me inside stroke victim Emily Stilson's world, but her sung words distanced me from her experience.
Emily is a one-time stunt flier who used to perform on the wings of a flying plane. In a clever opening, we watch as she plunges headlong into the crevasse of a stroke, then witness her inner confusion, anger and stumbling confidence as she struggles to climb out of the hole of her muddled understanding and broken ability to speak.
As Emily, the admirable Janis Hardy sings Arthur Perlman's lyrics and composer Jeffrey Lunden's score with sadness and passion in a rich soprano. But it is in scenes with spoken dialogue that she truly plumbs the pain of her disability.
When a doctor sets out four objects before Emily and asks her to identify them, I held my breath as I watched her gargantuan struggle to force out the words, "toof broom" for the clumsily-grasped tooth brush in her hand. Although I followed when her imagination lifted her out of her speech-impaired body and left the doctor and nurse peppering her pillow with questions, I saw but did not feel her emotion as she flailed angrily around the room, singing.
Director Peter Rothstein brings wonderful touches to his direction of Wings. In the immediate jumbled alienation of Emily's affliction, the doctor and nurse move and speak like automatons in a hospital room that could be a prison corridor. The opaque panels of Peter Hoover's elaborate set slide back and forth, like brief openings in the fuzz of stroke-induced confusion; and lighting and sound designs by Sarah Schreiber and Tom Bothof further dramatize Emily's distorted perceptions. Doctors, nurses and orderlies are dressed in white in this sterile world, but Adena Brumer as Amy, the therapist, wears warm, russet-colored clothes and is the only person to forge an emotional connection with Emily.
In spite of Hardy's strong performance in a cleverly staged production, I longed for less song and more dialogue to draw me deep inside the inner opacities of Emily's stroke.
Wings runs through October 26. Theater Latte´ Da, The Loring Playhouse,1633, Hennepin Ave. Minneapolis. $15-$20. 612-343-3390.