Courtesy of CAROL PRATT
The Folger Library’s theatre is bringing Shakespeare’s first written play to D.C. When “Comedy of Errors” was written, Shakespeare was just a novice, a concept that most of us have never even considered. The play itself was heavily influenced by works of the Roman playwright Plautus.
The story is that of confused identity, with two sets of twins being mistaken for one another, and twisting up in way that can confuse anyone trying the keep track of it all.
The mixing up of twins sets the tone for this slapstick comedy. Both sets of twins are played by men that look nothing alike, leaving you wondering how they can pull it off. The twins — and all the other male characters — wear masks that successfully create their identities. You’ll find yourself wondering which twin is which, despite your omniscient viewpoint.
The more the characters become entangled, the further engrossed in the storyline the audience becomes. The action never stops as the characters run in and out of colorful doors. The Folger creates a momentum that hardly ends. The production only comes in at about an hour and fifteen minutes, but includes a needless intermission. If there is one thing they did not do right, it was breaking the momentum of laughter and comedic action.
As a Shakespearean piece, “Comedy of Errors” often gets attacked for its adolescent humor, but that is just the thing that makes it such a wonderful play to see. The Folger has created a special feel to their version, partially due to their intimate theatre space, which was originally designed for small lectures — not for performances. They stayed true to Shakespeare’s vision of modern comedy, which for Shakespeare meant late 1500s. This version has taken those then-modern and now seemingly ancient comedic references and added their own 21st century humor. “Comedy of Errors” has a twist of Edwardian settings and well-crafted British accents.
Their unique production of “Comedy of Errors” is showing until March 6 at the Folger, and anyone would be a fool to miss it.