Saturday, July 11, 2009

Comedy of Errors highlights bang-up first day of outdoor theater fest

We saw four marvelously entertaining plays today as the Seattle Outdoor Theater Festival took to the lawn on a gorgeous day at the amphitheater at Volunteer Park. The final show of the day, a superb production of Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors produced by GreenStage and directed by Ryan Higgins, was a hilarious treat and the highlight of the opening day of the festival.

Higgins has already caused Weisenheimer a lot of trouble. It was his fabulous take on Othello at Balagan Theatre that started me on the path to joining the board of directors at that company. His great work with Comedy of Errors cements his status as one of the most interesting young directors working in Seattle. His added twist is one most common in Shakespeare -- to the play's comic confusion of two sets of identical twins, he adds the gender flip, too, as women play men and men play women. The "hot chicks" of The Comedy of Errors are above. From left to right it's one of the Dromios, Patrick Bentley as Adriana, Michael D. Blum as a Courtezan with Marge-Simpson hair, and Rio Codda as Luciana.

Props, too, to Don MacEllis, who seemed to play about 12 characters all with great comic presence. Higgins gets the most out of a wonderful cast, and the show is a rapid-fire riot from start to finish.

Finishing a close second on the day is a nice production of Richard III by Wooden O and Seattle Shakespeare Company, directed by Stephanie Shine. George Mount, who directed the recent well-received recent production of The Tempest at Seattle Shakes, is appropriately wicked and scheming and even funny as Richard. Another Balagan favorite, Mike Dooly, does much of Richard's dirty work as Buckingham. That's them above, with Richard peering over Buckingham's shoulder. Higgins directed Dooly, who played Iago, in Balagan's production of Othello.

The day opened with a nice production of The Merry Wives of Windsor by Last Leaf Productions and a fun performance of The Sorcerer's Apprentice by Theater Schmeater and directed by Julia Griffin. The cast were solid, but we especially liked the over-the-top performance by Aaron Allshouse as the Sorcerer and by Monica Wulzen as A Cat.

The festival wraps up with five more shows at Volunteer Park on Sunday. Most can be seen again elsewhere. Wooden O runs Richard III and The Taming of the Shrew at various parks through August 2, Apprentice runs Saturdays and Sundays at 5 p.m. at Volunteer Park through August 9, Last Leaf runs Wives and Shrew the next couple of weekends in Snohomish County, and the GreenStage shows run through August 15.

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