Patrick Schmitz continues to crunch through the classics with playful spoofery in another one-weekend production. This year’s Schmitz ’n’ Giggles show is a bit story of a classic tragedy as a talented comedy cast sinks it’s teeth into The Comedy of King Lear…Kinda Sorta. Adroit comic veteran Beth Lewinski plays the title role of the doomed king in a briskly moving parade of light humor. Nic Onorato plays with similarly intricate comic energies as.the Earl of Gloucester. His illegitimate son Edmund is given silly scenery-chewing over-the-top evilness by Josh Decker.
The Shakesparody Players do a good job with this one. Notable performances include Jacob Woelfel as the particularly inspired janitor Pete Benson…who in this play happens to be harboring unrequited feelings for Cordelia. She is played with delightfully casual comic energy by Karah Minelli. Becky Cofta plays to a more caddy humor in the role of Cordelia’s sister Regan. Ekta Desai rounds-out the central cast as the actively scheming sister Gonerill. It’s a big ensemble, but the production still manages to play on some humor involving the size of the production. Rachel Seurer and Amarion Herbert play the gradually dwindling group of 100 knights that Lear is given to protect himself as he heads off into the cold, cruel world in self-imposed abdication. Seurer and Herbert are a lot of fun in the margins of the production as the knights and various other roles.
As always, Schmitz veers away from deeper satire in favor of fun, little deviations and mutations on traditional sitcom tropes and gags. Schmitz’s comedy rushes through a high joke-per-minute ratio. With as much shooting by on the stage as there is, there is actually quite a lot of comedy of that just completely fails to hit. It’s really weird to think about this in retrospect as it is the case that so much of it IS funny. I’m not quite certain how the math works out on this, but I mean...even if only one in ten gags is good, it all shoots by so quickly that the show as a whole never really drags.
A lot of what Schmitz is doing with various elements in the script is simply allowing his actors room to play. He’s been working with Lewinski for long enough that he knows he can trust her to make even very, very dull comedy absolutely sparkle. Seurer lends a whole lot of nuanced comic energy to the role of a doctor who really has no business being anywhere near as funny as she is. Schmitz goes for some of the more obvious comedy potential in the script, but Seurer does a grand job of making it work. A painfully over-worked bit of humor involving a chevron-emblazoned shirt and a pair of glasses manages to lend a bit of strangely poignant dramatic weight to the proceedings as Joel Dresang plays the mild-mannered Earl of Kent and his casually heroic alter-ego Caius.
The Comedy of King Lear…Kinda Sorta runs through Saturday, August 12 at the Next Act/Renaissance Theaterworks space on 255 S. Water Street. For more information, visit Schmitz’n’ Giggles online.