The Bard has yet another win to tally. 15 Villainous Fools is a meat-and-potatoes show for Capital Fringe, but rarely so well done.
The show is a retelling of William Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, with generous portions of pop culture, quick-change chaos, and fourth wall breaking.
Maggie Seymour and Olivia Atwood wrote and produced 15 Villainous Fools, the first production by their 601 Theatre Company. Combined, they play 15 roles pulled from The Comedy of Errors, and they do it with tremendous energy and polish. Even Axis Fuksman-Kumpa, stuck with the old make-the-stage-manager-a-character gag, performs well.
From the opening rap, Seymour and Atwood are non-stop, picking up cues at a master’s pace. Every pause in Shakespeare’s plot is filled in with enthusiastic interludes, some diverting wildly into song and dance. Color-coded costume pieces fly through the air and get tangled in hair. Different accents and physicalities burst onto stage and are swiftly supplanted. 15 Villainous Fools rivals The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) with apparent ease. A parody of Shaggy’s It Wasn’t Me rewritten as Antipholus of Ephesus trying to set the record straight hits the spot.
15 Villainous Fools
Produced by The 601 Theatre Company
Details and tickets
On the other hand, we’ve seen trendy rewrites of Shakespeare before, especially at Fringe. Instead of 15 Villainous Fools breathing new life into The Comedy of Errors, maybe the opposite has happened. Maybe trendy, silly Shakespearean rewrites have become this generation’s reliable yet tired classic comedy. Maybe hip itself is old.
Fans of comedic Shakespearean remixes would struggle to find a better example of the genre, but those looking for the fringe of Fringe might see Seymour and Atwood’s obvious talents as wasted on such a typical show. They are fearless in it, but why shouldn’t they be? We’ve seen much of this show before.
On their website, Capital Fringe’s stated focus is “expanding audiences [sic] appetites for independent, Fringe theatre, music, art, dance and unclassifiable forms of live performance and visual art.” I hope to see the 601 Theatre Company cook up something uniquely them at a future Capital Fringe.
15 Villainous Fools. Written by Maggie Seymour, Olivia Atwood, and William Shakespeare. Performed by Maggie Seymour, Olivia Atwood, and Axis Fuksman-Kumpa. Produced by the 601 Theatre Company. Reviewed by Marshall Bradshaw.