The Comedy of Errors
nytheatre.com review by Kristin Skye Hoffmann
March 18, 2011
Allow me to start by sharing with you a quick synopsis of William Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, straight from the program:
The action takes place in Ephesus, notorious in the ancient world, and in the Bible, as a center of deception, witchcraft, and sharp practice. The town is also in the midst of a trade war with Syracuse: anyone from either city who appears in the other will be executed unless they can buy their way out. This doom faces Aegeon, an elderly merchant from Syracuse. He explains that he and his wife had twin sons (the brothers Antipholus) and two twin servants (the brothers Dromio), but they were separated in a shipwreck. His son Antipholus of Syracuse has since been searching for his lost twin, attended by his servant Dromio, who has also lost a twin brother. Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse arrive in Ephesus, unaware that their respective twins live there. This leads to a series of confusions in which one pair of twins is mistaken for the other.
Okay, got it? Alright, you may have few questions. Why would two sets of parents name both their twin children the same name? How could a man’s wife be fooled into thinking a different man was her husband however similar they look? Is it really possible for two sets of twins to find identical outfits in different cities especially when said cities are involved in a trade war? My answer to you is this: Don’t worry about it and enjoy Propeller’s production of The Comedy of Errors at BAM.
The production is set in a modern barrio, the most colorful, gorgeous, and British barrio imaginable. As the audience enters the theatre, a sombero-clad mariachi band plays unobtrusive, maraca-based pop songs as a local cop (the hilarious and brilliant Dominic Tighe) patrols the aisles reminding us that no phones are permitted. There are also scalpers about, shadily pitching their wares to anyone who dares engage them. This all-male troupe is there to entertain you from top to bottom and my goodness do they ever.
The entire ensemble is overwhelmingly talented. The group performs exclusively Shakespeare and have become masters of the style. This is a very silly play chock-full of slapstick, wordplay, and, of course, men in drag. Director Edward Hall says this about Shakespeare, “He challenges every preconceived notion about people, about morality, about what it is to be human.” This group embraces those challenges and is obviously having a ball doing it.
I can’t stress enough that everyone on stage is phenomenal, but there were some personal favorite performances of mine. Richard Frame as Dromio of Syracuse is fantastic. His comic timing and grasp of the language is staggering. Jon Trenchard as Dromio of Ephesus is equally brilliant employing extreme physical comedy as he is beaten in excess for the confusions for which he is blamed. Robert Hands as Adriana, Antipholus of Ephesus’s wife, is so good. Funny, charming and ridiculous, he combines honesty and over-the-top tomfoolery to create a near perfect embodiment of the character. As Luciana, her sister, David Newman shines, using demure and feminine energy to mask moments of serious ass-kicking physicality.
Propeller’s The Comedy of Errors is a complete delight. Director Edward Hall and designer Michael Pavelka have created a true work of comedy art together. If you know someone who “doesn’t get Shakespeare” buy them a ticket and let them experience the shear joy that radiates off the stage in the gorgeous Harvey Theater at BAM. I think you will find that they leave thanking you.