Two shows this weekend.
First, at the Shakespeare Theatre, a concert production of Rodgers and Hart’s “The Boys from Syracuse”, based (fairly tightly) on Shakespeare’s “A Comedy of Errors”, first produced in the late 1930s and revived numerous times in New York, London and elsewhere. As its Shakespearean base, the premise is simplistic and not very interesting: two twins with the same name are shipwrecked with their two servants, also twins with identical names, along with their father and mother. Each of the twins swims to shore with his servant, one pair winding up in Ephesus and one seemingly not winding up anywhere at all, but seeking to return to their home town of Syracuse. The Syracuse pair wanders through Ephesus, where they are surprised that everyone knows who their names, including their respective wives. And, like a French farce without the slamming doors, they wind up being placed into situations (including conjugal ones and business ones) which they don’t understand. Until it all comes clear at the end, of course.
The strength of the show is in the music, which includes a couple of now-standards, ‘Falling in Love with Love’ and ‘This Can’t Be Love’, and a few clever songs such as ‘He and She’ and ‘Sing for your Supper’, along with a bunch of utterly forgettable ones.
The concert format was a perfect one for this show. The orchestra was on stage, which helps make up for another of the show’s problems: how to fill up the stage. Although it was announced that there were only 9 rehearsals and the cast would be holding the scripts, most everyone seemed to have memorized their lines, and although it was billed as a concert, it was not like standing in front of microphones, but involved as much movement as you would see in a fully staged production.
And the cast was terrific, although I would single out Leslie Kritzer as Luce (wife of the servant, who spent a delightful night with his twin brother) as the best.
And the Audience Loved the Show!
This afternoon we went to see Constellation Theatre’s production of Shaw’s “Arms and the Man”, a show which, for some reason, has not had stellar reviews. The plot of “Arms and the Man” is not much better than that of “A Comedy of Errors”. It is a fairly early Shaw play, and a vehicle to stress Shaw’s socialism and belief that people should relate to each other without regard to wealth or social status. Thus, it focuses on a young woman, daughter of the wealthiest family in 19th century Bulgaria, engaged to the son of another wealthy Bulgarian, whose marriage plans are disrupted by her accidental meeting of a Swiss officer in the pay of Serbia, Bulgaria’s enemy in this war, with whom she eventually falls in love (of course he turns out to be rich, although he is not a member of the non-existent Swiss nobility, but rather a “public citizen” of the country), and the Bulgarian officer falls in love with the servant of his soon to be ex-fiance.
Of course, before all this happens, there is adventure, comedy, dissembling, boasting, deceit, and all of the other emotions that Shaw is able to put into his surprisingly clever script. Again, a strong cast and nice stage work in the old fashioned Source Theatre space. Again, the female lead gets my star of the show designation – this time she is Amy Quiggins, playing Riana, the object of (virtually) everyone’s affection.