CULTURE TO GO 


Old story, still funny

The Comedy of Errors
Through Oct. 7
Orlando Shakespeare Theater
$20-$37; 407-447-1700, ext. 1
www.orlandoshakes.org

The new television season is upon us, and with it comes the latest crop of sitcoms. If you like your contrived plots and risqué puns with a little more panache, tune in to Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s Comedy of Errors. This swift-moving special episode from the Original Bard of Comedy clocks in at about two hours, but packs more laughs than a whole night of Must-See TV.

Here’s the pitch: Merchant Aegon (Bob Dolan) and his wife, their infant twins Antipholus (Robby Pigott) and Antipholus (Daniel Harray), and their twin slaves Dromio (Brad DePlanche) and Dromio (Brandon Roberts), are separated in a Syracusian shipwreck. Thirty-three years later, they all coincidentally arrive in Ephesus, where Antipholus No. 1 and Dromio No. 1 have settled. Multiple mistaken identities ensue when the Ephesian Antipholus’ yenta wife, Adriana (Suzanne O’Donnell), shanghais his just-arrived twin, who promptly falls for her ditzy sis, Luciana (Sarah Ireland). The two Dromios cross each other’s paths while sprinting about trying to obey their seemingly insane masters’ demands. The Antipholuses have identical awful beards and abusive attitudes toward their manservants. But it’s hilarious that the Dromios don’t look or sound anything alike: Roberts is more like Ren to DePlanche’s Stimpy. Both display Emmy-worthy comic timing, as do supporting players like Jason Horne (as ululating quack Dr. Pinch) and Mark Lanier (as gypped goldsmith Angelo).

Director Patrick Flick fills the frame with choreographed comedy, both physical and verbal, in a fleetly flowing parade. Grace notes abound, like Bert Scott’s sculptural Grecian set being reflected in the background characters’ comic-statuesque posing. The A-story is compelling in its absurdity, and interstitial moments with the supporting cast add to the mirth. With world-class wordplay, expert slapstick and an ending that satisfies (even if you see it coming from miles away), The Comedy of Errors is more than worth leaving the TiVo at home.

— Seth Kubersky

Strung tight

Potpourri of Puppetry Cabaret
www.orlandopuppetfestival.com

Puppetry seems still sadly consigned to the same cultural caste where animation long languished: For Children Only. It’s a good thing artists like Heather Henson and Jamie Donmoyer are reminding us that puppets can speak to grown-ups too. Potpourri of Puppetry Cabaret has been presented by Ibex Inc. and Mad Cow Theatre a half-dozen times since 2002, with last Saturday’s edition doubling as a warm-up for the Orlando Puppet Festival (Oct. 26-28 at Mad Cow Theatre). The phrase “puppet cabaret” conjures images of Fosse-dancing frogs but that proved a superficial comparison, as the evening turned out to be a hand-animated variation on an open-mic night.

Tony Giordano, the (hopefully) intentionally awful master of ceremonies, staggered through the introduction of almost a dozen acts, evenly split between prerecorded projections and live performances. Giordano was completely upstaged by his hysterical puppet co-host, the adorably ugly Chupacabra (who needs his own TV show ASAP), along with a megalomaniacal hamster and other hand-held hams. The filmed vignettes were uniformly entertaining; highlights included a surreal satire involving a disgruntled air conditioner by the Rag Show, and a sidesplitting fist-puppet tribute to the William Shatner/Ben Folds rant “I Can’t Get Behind That” by Wavey Davey. Also screened was a tantalizing trailer for the Handmade Puppet Dreams film series, the first volume of which featured the fascinating Nosferatu homage Harker.

The live segments were more of a mixed bag, veering from uncomfortably personal performance art to incompetent hipster illusionists. Best of the bunch was a quirky shadow play about the Monster in the Pit of My Stomach. I was disturbed by the performers who treated their puppets more like props than personalities, but at $8 for the show and a drink, you couldn’t complain about the value. Most exciting news of the night – Avenue Q’s John Tartaglia (and some of his felt friends) will spend the evening Oct. 18 at Mad Cow.

— SK

Only 66 years ago

The War
8 p.m. Sept. 23-26 and Sept. 30-Oct. 2
WMFE-TV
www.pbs.org/thewar

In late 1941, America went to war with the army it had – not the army it wished it had – and fought valiantly and successfully to keep the world free. What happened in the subsequent four years is documented in Ken Burns’ The War, a magnificent 15-hour film that he’s called his best work ever.

No argument here. This remembrance of World War II works in every way. As history, it provides an easy-to-understand chronology of what happened where, when and why. As analysis, the film offers a sober look at U.S. decisions during the long and costly war and leaves you wondering how a man can be asked to fight for his country, then not be allowed to sit at a lunch counter. As reminiscence, it’s a clear-eyed view of how this “necessary war,” to borrow Burns’ description, affected the people who fought and those who waited back home.

Burns uses four communities in Connecticut, Minnesota, California and Alabama to serve as stand-ins for every city and town and interweaves the stories of approximately 40 veterans to fill in the details. You’ll hear recollections and see images you’ll never forget: Japanese jumping to their deaths off Saipan rather than be captured; frozen bodies in the Ardennes; the general who sacrificed 400 of his men so he could save 230 others; Glenn Frazier’s call home to his family. Amid the horrors, there are some joyous moments. The Americans’ arrival in Paris is as beautiful to watch as the aftermath of the Nazi death camps is sickening.

Before I watched the series in its entirety, I saw two portions at public screenings. The reaction was the same at both: sobs, sniffles and stunned silence. So be prepared. Keep tissues handy.

— Marc D. Allan

arts@orlandoweekly.com

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