With a cast that includes Jesse Tyler Ferguson of ABC's "Modern Family," the Public Theater's new production of Shakespeare's "The Comedy of Errors" debuted this week at the Delacorte Theatre in New York's Central Park.
The production, which is part of the Public's annual Shakespeare in the Park, moves the action of the play to the 1940s and gives it a madcap, New York-inflected spin, complete with fedoras, jazz dancing and gun-wielding nuns. Ferguson and co-star Hamish Linklater each play two roles -- twin servants and dukes who were separated at birth and get caught up in a farcical adventure based on mistaken identity.
Directed by the always-busy Daniel Sullivan, this production features Emily Bergl and stage veteran Jonathan Hadary in supporting roles. Sullivan staged the well-received 2010 Central Park production of "The Merchant of Venice," with Al Pacino and Lily Rabe, and last summer's "As You Like It," also with Rabe.
This summer's Shakespeare in the Park also will feature a musical version of "Love's Labour's Lost," created by Alex Timbers and Michael Friedman, who previously worked on the musical "Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson."
Neither lead actor is new to performing Shakespeare in hot and muggy weather. Ferguson previously appeared on the Delacorte stage in the Public's 2007 staging of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Linklater, formerly of the CBS sitcom "The New Adventures of Old Christine," appeared in the 2009 production of "Twelfth Night," alongside Anne Hathaway.
Last summer, Ferguson starred in a production of "The Producers" at the Hollywood Bowl.
What did the critics think of the updated "Comedy of Errors"?
Charles Isherwood of the New York Times wrote that "Sullivan and his top-to-bottom terrific cast have brought enriching measures of warmth and style to this oft-undervalued play." Ferguson brings "impeccable phrasing and timing" to his characters' ribald jokes.
Variety's Marilyn Stasio wrote that the "well-matched pair" of Ferguson and Linklater "is up for anything that helmer Sullivan throws at them in this fun show, which has no discernible theme, but a lot of nerve." The two leads have a chemistry that "makes sparks on stage."
Roma Torre of the news channel NY1 said that the two leads have been "able to craft very different comic profiles, keeping confusion at bay amid the wild antics. With timing like this, all's very well indeed."
The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney wrote that the production allows Ferguson and Linklater "to exercise formidable Shakespearean comedy chops that will be a revelation to audiences familiar only with their TV work."