Tag Archives: Review

Arkansas Times

by Bernard Reed

There are a lot of things to like about Shakespeare, not least of which is the flexibility of his plays. The Arkansas Shakespeare Festival’s production of “The Comedy of Errors” has certainly taken advantage of this flexibility to come up with a loudly colorful and goofily anachronistic show.

“The Comedy of Errors” is one of Shakespeare’s first plays and has long been considered by scholars to lack academic depth — a quality that any tired English student might find very appealing. It tells the story of Antipholus of Syracuse and his slave, Dromeo, arriving in Ephesus, the former looking for his long lost brother; the brother turns out to be an identical twin, also named Antipholus, who is accompanied by his own servant, the identical twin of Dromeo. The presence of these two pairs of twins results in a cavalcade of humorous mishaps, replete with mistaken identities and a full serving of slapstick gags.

Which is one of the production’s strong points, at least for those who like slapstick: There’s a lot of theatrically cartoonish beating-up of Dromeo, the show’s punching bag, who flops about on stage as though he was made of rubber (as though they were made of rubber, that is). That’s another part of this show that’s executed very cleverly — rather than use separate actors for each twin, requiring greater suspension of disbelief from the audience, there’s only one actor for both Antipholuses and both Dromeos. The problem of the twins confronting each other in the final scene is craftily resolved in a gag that stays in line with the wackiness of the rest of the show.

And wacky it certainly is. The costumes, in bright colors, don’t adhere to any particular setting or period, and the cast is followed around by a pair of bouncing minstrels who act as a kind of vaudevillian chorus. One feature that might annoy some is the lack of any theme to the setting — Ephesus has been updated to a vaguely Southern small town in the early 20th century, but the characters seem to exist in some indefinable Shakespearean ether, conforming more to quirky caricatures than the demands of their setting. But Shakespeare is flexible, after all, and this is a play about the farcical committing of errors.

It’s an amusing bit of Shakespeare, to be sure, and if you want to expose your kids to the bard but don’t think that “Henry V,” the Festival’s other option, is quite the right entry point to his oeuvre, “The Comedy of Errors” will work just fine. It shows again June 26 at 7 p.m. and July 3 at 2 p.m.

Arkansas Times

by David Koon

http://www.arktimes.com/arkansas/dracula/Content?oid=1217323

The Arkansas Shakespeare Festival has made a habit out of throwing curveballs in its annual salute to The Bard. One of this year’s examples was especially exciting to Yours Truly, given that I was a vampire lit freak long before anybody heard of “Twilight” or Sookie Stackhouse. Then again, it’s hard to think of a better pairing than Shakespeare and Bram Stoker. Both wrote well about bloodsuckers, though ol’ Bram’s were of the literal variety while Shakespeare’s were much more apt to be feeding on more figurative heartsmilk.

In short: All those hours drilling actors on Shakespeare leading up to the festival have paid off in spades for “Dracula,” which turns out to be a genuinely thrilling time at the theater.

Though the sets by veteran designer Doug Gilpin are spare, rich lighting and sound — along with a tiered stage and sometimes-transparent-sometimes-opaque curtains — make the production lush and more mysterious. That deep stage and gauzy curtain are used to great effect in scenes dealing with flashbacks to Jonathan Harker’s torturous sojourn in Transylvania as a guest of the Count.

The acting, as with all the Shakespeare Festival productions I’ve seen, is first rate. One clear standout is Greyson Lewis as Renfield, who plays Dracula’s John the Baptist with a flailing, Puck-like glee. Also fine are Tracie Thomason as Mina and Paul Saylor as Harker, both of them navigating the slippery slope from carefree and in love to terrified and hunted believably enough to create suspense. Nathan Hosner is also good as Count Dracula, though we don’t see much of him. As in the book, Dracula is often the imagined threat lurking just out of the edge of the light, and that works here to good effect.

The production could have been more adventurous with the character of Dracula. Hosner is decked out in a version of the classic Dracula garb, with red waistcoat and black cape, and is clearly channeling Bela Lugosi’s famous performance. The effect, in this post-”Twilight” world, is to leave the Granddaddy of All Vamps looking dated and campy. A bit more of a dark and subdued look and mannerism could have added a new facet to the character without adding a word.

Even at that, “Dracula” is a good time at the theater, full of fine performances and satisfying stagecraft. Unlike its namesake, it definitely does not suck.

“Dracula” concludes at Reynolds Hall 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 1, and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 3.

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