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A CurtainUp DC Review
The Comedy of Errors

"...the one so like the other, as could not be distinguished but by names" Egeon on the subject of his twin sons.
Gregory Wooddell and Veanne Cox (Photo by Scott Suchman)
It is a testament to the talents of the cast of The Comedy of Errors at the Shakespeare Theatre that, after an approximately 30-minute break precipitated by a patron's serious medical emergency, they could pick up the show where they left off and run with it. What was supposed to be 100-minutes without an intermission of relentless farce turned into a three-hour performance. But that's not what ruined the evening.

Director Alan Paul placed Comedy in the Greek seaside town called Ephesus (the real contemporary Ephesus is in Turkey but no matter that) at a non-specific modern time. He borrowed heavily from Greek-themed movies Zorba and Never On Sunday and leaned on help from composer/lyricist Michael Dansicker and choreographer Karma Camp. That too was not the problem.

Admittedly The Comedy of Errors demands a greater than usual suspension of disbelief given its themes of not one but two sets of twins separated in youth followed by mistaken identities. To these elements Paul has added such shopworn tricks as a talking parrot, a jelly-like octopus, a lisping and sometimes unintelligible tailor (Matt Zambrano), a limp-wristed jeweler (Tom Story, overdoing swish), fart jokes, flipping the bird, plus cruder motions. When three poorly-compensated policeman complain that crime does not pay, the audience groaned. The cops' lively entr'acte tap dance, however, led by the loose-limbed and very engaging Matt Bauman, brought down the house. This diversion from the sophomoric antics perpetrated by Paul was much appreciated. The cast includes some truly notable and gifted actors doing their best in less than perfect circumstances. Octogenarian Ted van Griethuysen gives Egeon, the father searching for his son, an empathetic performance. Veanne Cox as Adriana is, as always, elegant. She speaks Shakespeare's lines eloquently and moves with a grace that makes her contrasting lusty embraces and rapid pratfalls very funny indeed. Christian Conn as Antipholus of Ephesus and Gregory Wooddell as Antipholus of Syracuse, in matching suits and wigs, show that they are capable of delivering Shakespearean soliloquies with sincerity. Kudos too for the best vignettes: Carson Elrod's straight-faced Dromio of Syracuse and Matt Bauman's cameo as a waiter.

This is the first production of the 2018-2019 season which is Artistic Director Michael Kahn's last season. Kahn, for 30 plus years, has elevated Washington theater to remarkable heights and deserves the many accolades he has received. His successor, Simon Godwin, best known in Washington for his brilliant direction of the RSC's Hamlet with Paapa Essiedu that played the Kennedy Center last spring, takes over August 1, 2019.

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The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
Directed by Alan Paul
Composer/lyricist, Michael Dansicker
Choreography by Karma Camp
Scenic design by James Noone
Costume design by Gabriel Berry
Cast: Gregory Wooddell (Antipholus of Syracuse); Christian Conn (Antipholus of Ephesus); Carson Elrod (Dromio of Syracuse); Carter Gill (Dromio of Ephesus); Ted van Griethuysen (Egeon, Merchant of Syracuse); Nancy Robinetter (Emilia, Abbess at Ephesus); Veanne Cox (Adriana, Wife of Antipholus of Ephesus); Folami Williams (Luciana, Adriana's younger sister); Tom Story (Angelo, a Goldsmith); J. Bernard Calloway (Duke Solinus of Ephesus/Luce); Eleasha Gamble (Courtesan); Sarah Marshall (Dr. Pinch); Matt Zambrano (Tailor/Second Merchant); Matt Bauman (Officer, Protean, Dance Captain); John Cardenas (Protean); Justin G. Nelson (Protean).

Running time: 100 minutes without an intermission. Shakespeare Theatre/Lansburgh,; September 25 to October 28, 2018. Reviewed by Susan Davidson at October 1, 2018 performance.

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