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People Are Talking: Richard III & The Comedy of Errors

Posted: 3/30/11 -- 9:00 am

34

avatar by Mary Roeder

Tell us what you thought!   This is the place to comment on the performance, and talk to other people about what you saw and heard.  Please be sure to tell us for which show you’re commenting.  Don’t forget to click the option to be notified when new comments are posted.

READ MORE ABOUT PROPELLER

You can also check out these videos capturing audience responses to the opening night of both shows!

Mary Roeder works in UMS Education & Community Engagement. Additionally, she is awesome.

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  • avatar

    We walked out at intermission, and would have walked out halfway through the first act if we had not had to disturb so many people. We liked the idea of an all-male cast as in Shakespeare’s time and the diction was fine. But the overall performance was hard to follow and when the audience laughed at the final, bloody murder with the completely out-of-place-and-time chainsaw at the end of the first act, it felt more like a gruesome comedy.
    It just did not work for us at all.

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  • avatar

    This is a must see! Comedy opens up to allow the insertion of the dagger. Beautiful acting and staging. A brilliant conceit. I was so pleased that many of my students were there tonight to see how joyful and committed theatre can be.

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  • A despicable Richard casually and bloodily disposing of all who stand in his way, with his gleaming smile and a magician’s bouquet confidently wooing a widow over the corpse of her husband, murderers for hire entering with a quick dance step… we were delighted with the play.

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  • avatar

    What a wonderful performance! It was a fantastic show: acting, interpretation, styling and I loved the use of music. We also thought the costumes were brilliant. Thank you so much for bringing Propeller to UMS this year. I’m telling all my colleagues this morning they need to see a show!

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  • avatar

    Knowing what I knew about the this company’s approach to staging I expected to be distracted by focusing on the mechanics. However, I was amazed to better see the play itself as the sets, costumes and the staging are stripped to the minimum. The core of the play came through better even than the RSC presentation here 10 years ago, as good as that was.
    We look forward to seeing Comedy of Errors tonight.

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  • avatar

    Last night’s opening performance of Propeller’s production of Richard III was nothing short of brilliant. On the theatrical level, every ounce of “space” – visual and auditory – was enlisted and engaged in the moment. Nothing was overlooked. The cold, unyielding texture of the plastic curtains, the Requiem Gregorian chanting juxtaposed with the Vaudevillian cadence, the colorless palette punctuated with blood-red, the horrific “trophies” dangling from the belt of the most chilling executioner, the nuanced inflections of Richard revealing the depth of his despair. Yet – beyond the cleverness of an amazingly crafted performance was the brilliance of raw realism. Sadly, one need only to read the news of the day to realize that horrific, calloused disregard for human life and desperate, insatiable hunger for power are often bedfellows. This performance of pure theater seared into the minds of the audience an undeniable reality. Brilliant.

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  • avatar

    Richard III meets Sweeney Todd, and the result is riveting, intense, and brilliantly devasting. The ironic use of British lullabies and madrigals during Richard’s calculated murders was chilling, as was the requiem. The occasional bawdy humor was jarring and unscored the callousness of Richard’s plotting. I found the use of puppets for the surprisingly moving, and was only initially distracted by men playing female and child roles (I appreciated that the actors did not resort to caricature). The pacing was also excellent, expertly and suspensefully building to a climax without dragging at all. A powerful Richard III, highly recommended.

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  • avatar

    I agree with David. The play is actually easier to see. I also thought that all blood simply underscored the ruthlessness of the play. The English have always treated Shakespeare with a great deal of flexibility, recognizing its essential vitality and adaptability without losing any of its power, and allowing it to stay fresh. Looking forward to the performance tonight!!

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  • avatar

    Brilliant staging, weirdly riveting, beautifully acted–all that is true. All that theater can be. And yet, part of me feels that something was lost, too, in this version. The parody works so well in the first part that it’s hard to take anything seriously in the second half, where tragedy and humanity ought to be in evidence.

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  • avatar

    What a STUNNING (pun intended!!)performance. With the murders done NOT off stage, NOT somewhere else, NOT merely reported, suddenly we see — in progress — all the bloodshed and violence that this brilliant sociopath strew about himself as he clawed and killed his way to the crown. While the director described the white coats as consistent with a hospital, I felt I was back in the abbatoir of the earlier play he described. Except the meat was inside body bags, not hanging from hooks.
    The drastic cutting of the book for this version was brilliantly effective at focusing the audience squarely at the horror of what Richard had done. The incredible energy of the actors, and that slight smile from time to time on the actors’ faces, kept us as a bit of distance from the characters, much more than in the original, so that the point was painfully clear. The most upsetting Richard III I have ever seen!! Powerful!!
    Rob Northrup

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  • avatar

    Here’s a review of “The Comedy of Errors”: http://www.annarbor.com/entertainment/review-propellers-the-comedy-of-errors/

    An excerpt: “Robert Hands’ portrayal of Adriana, wife of Antipholus of Ephesus (Sam Swainsbury), is spectacular. Like a force of nature, he haughtily stomps around the stage in heels and skin-tight leggings. Hands’ delivery and reactions are hilarious, but he also makes Adriana sympathetically vulnerable and endearing, so that in the play’s final moments, when the truth finally comes to light, Adriana’s embarrassment is both palpable and sweet.”

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  • avatar

    Saw Comedy of Errors last night. Brilliant–I love commedia dell’arte shtick, which is exactly what this play requires, and the shtick in this production is some of best I’ve ever seen. A real gas!

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  • avatar

    Oh — that wasn’t Titus Andronicus?

    In all seriousness, Richard III was great. The much more traditional production that we saw at Stratford (Ontario) back around 2002 couldn’t hold a candle to this one in terms of dramaturgy, directing, or acting. A winner for sure.

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  • avatar

    Speaking of Stratford, this production reminds me of an earlier Richard III with Brian Bedford. That production, like this one, actually had the audience laughing along with Richard, which is clearly what Shakespeare had in mind. Here, the added fun of over-the-top cinematic “Saw”-like touches made things even more amusing. The first writer was disturbed by the laughter during the chainsaw massacre. I, on the other hand, had a satisfied smile on the my face. What clever staging, what insights, what fine acting. Truly entertaining theater.

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  • avatar

    Well Richard III was a delight. I so happened to see the Al Pacino film Looking for Richard last week on HDTV. What a wild interpretation by Propeller! I can only say that it was a cross between Clockwork Orange and that Corktown play Purple Rose was showing last Winter. Blood packs and comedy…but done tastfully. And my was the party at the Alumni Center fun…great food and everyone was having fun talking to the actors.

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  • avatar

    We found Richard III problematic. One of us liked it more than the other, but we largely agreed on what we found problematic about it. Propeller’s staging, aesthetic, and editing brought out nuances in the play that led to new insights. The pacing was excellent and the acting outstanding. The insane-asylum setting, the emphasis placed on Margaret’s curses, the combination of comedy and horror (we thought Clarence’s murder scene was brilliant and chilling) all served to create an atmosphere perfectly fitted to the England of the Wars of Roses and uncomfortably fitting to our own age. The farce helped set off the intensity of evil. But…what we felt missing was the heart of Richard himself, his all-too-human path to evil, the inner dynamic that connects his horror with himself to the horror he creates. And so, the dream scene was a disappointment. This Richard felt like a catalyst of atrocity in a machine for the making of atrocity. (The reading, not the actor.) A fascinating reading, but in the end, not quite enough.

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  • avatar

    An astoundingly entertaining performance of Comedy of Errors with enough twists of interpretation and delivery of language to have Shakespeare rolling over laughing in his grave!

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  • avatar

    This was fierce theatre! A great follow up to Propeller’s Rose Rage. Wish everyone could see such wonderful work. How is it that at the movies I can’t bear violence, but bring a chainsaw onto a stage and I get really excited! Weird, huh?

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  • avatar

    (on Richard III:)

    What an amazing performance! The ensemble is absolutely breathtaking in their cohesive work. The music is eerie and so appropriate, and these talented men bring the show to life! Richard Clotheir makes an fantastically compelling and terrifying Richard III–every little twitch, eyebrow raise and exhalation by that man is dead-on Richard III. I would jump with all my vigor at another opportunity to see this show! Thank you for an amazing and breathtaking night of theatre!

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  • avatar

    We enjoyed Richard III tremendously. It was brilliantly acted. It’s always amazing to watch actors who are so comfortable with the language that it sounds so natural and nuanced. As for the setting I kept asking “Why?” until the phrase “The lunatics have taken over the Asylum” drifted through my mind. Chaos reigns until Richmond and his men in white jackets come to restore order. Like others have said, it was disturbing but stunning.

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  • avatar

    All I can say is: Propeller Theatre, come back, come back! I need to see more of your mischief and mayhem!

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  • avatar

    I hated it. Having carefully avoided horror movies all my life, I was unhappy to find sadistic violence arbitrarily part of Shakespeare. I know that (as Anthony Lane) recently pointed out, even Hollywood comedies currently include brutal violence but I am left behind by this. Most of the acting in Richard III was poor – not that the actors are untalented but they were often directed to scream and overact. Most harmfully, they rarely spoke the play’s words, or believed this was a drama involving characters who mattered to each other. For example, one of the most successful scenes, the visit of the two assassins, worked because the two actors actually spoke to one another, and therefore spoke intelligibly. Many of the speeches were delivered to the audience, straight out over the footlights, and in those speeches the actors took no care to be intelligible. They did not regard the dialogues as actual dialogue, but rather as bits of verbal display. The performance was not helped by a lead actor who in many ways was excellent, but was also usually incomprehensible during the soliloquies, converting Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter into duometer: “Thus is. The winter. Of our. Discontent. ” etc. Propeller has no faith in Shakespeare’s words, but believe that he needs screams and violence to appeal to current audiences. Maybe they’re right however. Many of the audience seemed to have liked it.

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  • avatar

    Richard III was amazing!! Most exciting and interesting Shakespeare production I have ever seen. Also loved Comedy of Errors today. Have seen a lot of Shakespeare everywhere including England and Ontario and have never seen anything like these shows. I hope UMS will bring them back and market them A’s well A’s they do the Royal Shakespeare.

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  • avatar

    Austerely handsome, dressed in D&G black, Richard III wears his slight deformities like expensive, hard-won marks of distinction – at least, in the Propeller production that I was lucky enough to catch in one of only 3 US stops.

    It’s a brilliant choice in a brilliant, ballsy, and perfect rendition of the play. Unlike Olivier’s bowl cut creep or Richard Dreyfuss’s mincing hunchback in The Goodbye Girl (subtle, that Neil Simon), this R3, played by the magnificent Richard Clothier, is repulsive on the inside, a rottenness to the core that makes you want to scrub with an abrasive cleanser as you wonder how you could have been seduced in the first place.

    (read rest of blog post here: http://nanarama.wordpress.com/2011/04/02/propeller-heads-part-1/)

    Reply
  • avatar

    One of the greates 3 days in UMS history, R III, Leningrad Symph., Comedy of Errors. Thank you Ken for making this one of the greatest places to live. My only question is how are you going to equal or surpass this season? Keep it coming and we will keep coming!

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  • avatar

    As has been famously observed, comedy is much harder than dying. I’ll admit, it’s never my first choice. All comedy, according to the great Walter Kerr, is terribly contrived; after all, happy endings occur so rarely in life, and it takes a great deal of machinery to have everyone smiling (and often heading to marriage, hardly a sure bet in guaranteeing bliss) at the end of a two-hour show.

    Propeller‘s Comedy of Errors is no less innovative than its Richard III, and of course, the same crew of geniuses putting it all together (director Edward Hall, designer Michael Pavelka, lighting designer Ben Ormerod, with additional music provided by Jon Trenchard and script adaptation provided by Hall and Roger Warren). Of course, it can’t hope to have the same gut-tearing impact; Errors has confusion at its center, not a brilliant, charismatic villain. A great Errors production, like this one, grabs you by both hands and runs you full-tilt through a fun house that isn’t completely fun; you occasionally crash into a wall and see stars. It’s the ultimate vicarious drunken party, risk of hangover included.

    (read rest of blog post here: http://nanarama.wordpress.com/2011/04/03/propeller-heads-part-2/)

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  • o m g, UMS–you have OUTDONE yourselves this weekend……

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  • avatar

    We left at half time. It was the ultimate vicarious drunken party, not our favorite form of recreation. But there were two more serious reasons for leaving. First, it was impossible to hear much of the dialogue and we had pretty central seats in the orchestra. Unfortunate for a play that relies on words. Secondly, the comic routines had become just that, routinized with the same set of activities repeated over and over again. We had been looking forward to this play. Alas.

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  • avatar

    This Comedy of Errors was the best I have ever seen. It made the text totally accessible – I wish my 12-year-old grandson had been there. This is surely what a comedy in Shakespeare’s time must have been like, not the ‘Oh goodness, this is Shakespeare so it must be taken seriously” type productions we see so often these days. These actors are masters of timing and physical comedy and nothing was ever overdone, all the action was a result of the text and the plot. I had a ticket for Richard III for opening night but was unable to go due to sickness so I had hoped to be able to see it Sunday night. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that there had not been enough people in this area interested in buying tickets so the Sunday performance had to be canclled. I hope that this is the first of many visits by Propeller to Ann Arbor via the UMS.

    Reply
  • avatar

    Decided not to use my ticket for Comedy of Errors when I heard about the nudity. Why was nudity necessary? I’ve enjoyed many a laugh over nude-less productions. Naked bodies can be pretty unappealing, even an affront, when you don’t know and love the person!

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    • avatar

      Actually, the (not full frontal) nudity lasted less than 10 seconds – the laughs lasted 2 1/2 hours! The show was so great on Saturday night that I brought my mom back to see it on Sunday. (I can’t imagine doing that if it had been “full nudity”!!)

      - Beth Gilliland, UMS Administration

      Reply
  • avatar

    We loved both plays (we did the Saturday “double feature”) and hope that the compnay returns to Power Center soon.

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  • avatar

    Heartfelt thanks to Ken Fischer for bringing outstanding dramatic performances to Ann Arbor this year – we were mesmerized by Richard III, convulsed by Comedy of Errors, and entranced by Cripple earlier on. We look forward to whatever he has in store for us next season! THANK YOU THANK YOU!

    Reply
  • 34

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