It's a minimalist production with maximal delight.
Ten Thousand Things' "The Comedy of Errors," now up in a brisk 90-minute one-act at echo-y Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis, is lean, witty and thoroughly entertaining.
The show, staged in the three-quarter round with proper social distancing, offers an engaging welcome-back to the theater after our COVID-19 sabbatical.
Director Marcela Lorca and dramaturge Jo Holcomb have been judicious with their edits of the Bard comedy, keeping the imaginative essence of the whimsical work while amplifying its humor. Lorca has framed the action and dialogue with telling and effective contemporary gestures, line readings and stage business.
That work is complemented by Peter Vitale's soundscape, which includes music, plinks and feedback — descriptive noises that help to transport us to ancient Ephesus, where two sets of identical twins are getting into risible mix-ups.
Antipholus of Ephesus and Antipholus of Syracuse (played with cleverness and bravado by Nubia Monks) are highborn twins separated at birth. Each is attended by a loyal bondsman, or slave, also a twin with the same name — Dromio of Ephesus and Dromio of Syracuse (played by the lyrical Danielle Troiano with the lightest of comic touches).
When Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse show up in Ephesus and are mistaken for their corresponding resident twins, misunderstandings and levity ensue.
Many productions of "Errors" include all the characters and the acts, sometimes drawing out, even frittering away, the humor. Lorca's version cuts to the wit. And there's no confusion about the characters. In fact, just six actors, dressed in festive costumes by Sonya Berlovitz, play all the roles in "Errors."
The magic of the production is achieved through spell-inducing line readings that, while still conversational and delivered in a cavernous hall where echoes can blur words, celebrate Shakespeare's poetry.
The whole company has a natural command of the language but standouts include actors Sally Wingert, whose roles include the wise, magisterial Abbess, and Will Sturdivant as the confused goldsmith and as a fluttery courtesan. Both deliver with relish.
Katie Bradley also deserves kudos for her Adriana, the wife of Antipholus of Ephesus, and Cristina Florencia Castro as Luciana's wise, unmarried lusty sister. Through intonation and cadence, Bradley and Castro subvert sexist tropes about their respective characters. Their sense of play demonstrates wisdom and strength and makes these women highly contemporary.
Relative newcomers, Monks and Troiano make statements with their range and tradecraft. Monks' Antipholuses are proud men who take up space, their stances wide and their sense of self wider. OK, they think too much of themselves, but it's funny as heck.
Troiano's Dromioes are like bashful teenage boys unsure of their path into adulthood with service that is more like students than slaves.
Director Lorca also uses simple gestures to convey the magic of the story. The twins, for example, simply turn around while putting on or taking off a hat to show the switch from one character to the next. It's a kind of dance that you can still see after the show is over, one that kept this audience member constantly smiling under his safety mask.
'The Comedy of Errors'
Who: By William Shakespeare. Directed by Marcela Lorca for Ten Thousand Things Theater. Music direction by Peter Vitale.
When: 7:30 p.m. Thu.-Sat., 4 p.m. Sun. Ends Nov. 21.
Where: Guild Hall of Plymouth Congregational Church, 1900 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls.
Protocol: Proof of vaccination or negative COVID test. Masks required.
Tickets: Choose your price. tenthousandthings.org