With DC ramping up for yet another presidential tilt, it’s a great time to sit back and laugh at the whole circus. To Err is Falstaff!! inventively blends Aaron Sorkin-esque humor and pacing with Shakespearean wordplay and characters, showing us that while times and styles may change, the political game remains the same.
High-powered consultant John Falstaff has been an advisor to presidents and kings. But after being canned from the White House, he’s down to one last shot to prove he’s still top dog in the campaign scene. Stephen T. Wheeler cuts an imposing figure as the tarnished politico, using every inch of his 6-½ foot frame and booming voice to intimidate colleagues and competitors alike and get his way. Wheeler drops references to Henry V in between profanities and Beltway speak as he tries to get a bumbling southern senator reelected.
Cal Whitehurst is ideally cast as Andronicus, an out of touch senator struggling with a tough campaign for the first time in his career. His hilarious missteps and odd mannerisms channel both Foghorn Leghorn and Dr. Strangelove. His ill advised “Fight the Fatass” physical fitness slogan is inspired lunacy, dreamed up by equally bumbling political operatives Brian David Clarke and Mike Hutchins. As motor mouthed American strategist Polonius and silver-tongued British flack Macbeth, the two actors make an entertaining comic duo – different in every way yet linked by a shared total ineptitude.
To Err is Falstaff!!
Written by Louis James Brenner
Directed by Eddie Page
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As the campaign wears on, Mike Rudden enters the picture as Andronicus’ challenger Coriolanus. He’s everything the incumbent isn’t: polished, sincere, and composed…at least until certain revelations throw a wrench into his squeaky clean image and he has an epic temper tantrum. As Coriolanus’ campaign manager Kate/The Shrew, Karen Dadey exhibits icy charm and a ruthlessness equal to her old mentor Falstaff.
There’s one element that gums up this finely tuned satire: the constant set changes. Brenner and his capable director Eddie Page have baked in so many scene changes that it feels like the stage is reset 5 times in 15 minutes. The pacing recalls snappy political dramas like “The West Wing” and “Scandal”, with their quick cuts and multi-character arcs. While on TV the action bounces smoothly between perspectives, in a theater in the round it just disrupts the flow and tension, as the set is swapped over and over. Better to let the actors build momentum than constantly tapping them out to push the story forward.
Even with the pacing issues, To Err is Falstaff!! is an enjoyable political farce that shows off playwright Brenner’s incisive wit and lets the game cast run wild through the seedy world of political operatives driven to win at any cost.