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A CurtainUp Berkshire Review
The Comedy of Errors
All these artificial and mysterious happenings and the mix of alternate rhyming, puns and doggerel don't represent Shakespeare at his mature best. However, the opportunity for riotous fun to appeal to kids as well as adults has insured the Comedy's popularity ever since it was first performed in 1594 and actually caused a minor riot when people unable to find even standing room, forced their way in.
Shakespeare's own take on the Plautus comedy has inspired additional and often major departures from the original through the years. That includes George Abbott's hit musical The Boys From Syracuse, which most modern audiences know mainly via the vintage film (1940) in which both Antipholus from Syracuse and Epheus were played by Allan Jones and both Dromios by Joe Penner. The funniest and most edgy adaptation I ever saw was a brilliantly original yet true to Shakespeare hip-hop version by three NYU students called The Bomb-itty of Errors. Shakespeare & Company's just opened Comedy is without a doubt the most beautiful I've ever seen.
Not to take anything away from the high energy cast, the true stars of Cecil MacKinnon's production are Kris Stone's double-tiered set, Arthur Oliver's eye-popping costumes, Lap-Chi Chu's exquisite lighting, especially for Susan Dibble's exquisitely choreograhed between scenes dance sequences. Stone's sherbert-colored palette is offset by a black and white checkered floor that invites playful hopscotching and pratfalls. With eight doors on the upper level, plus a marvelously inventive revolving door down below -- not to mention the requisite hidden holes for surprise pop-up appearances and disappearances-- MacKinnon has out-farceured the genre that is defined by having at least four doors to highlight its comic misunderstandings. To clarify the complicated story of the lost twins, the director has cleverly introduced poster-sized baby photos -- a decidedly modern touch that work beautifully.
In keeping with its commitment to growth and change as well as continuity, the cast represents a good balance of long-time Shakespeare & Company actors and newcomers. Thus Michael Milligan, Anne Gottlieb (in their first season in Lenox) and Tony Molina (in his second season) , are paired with long-time company members George Hannah, Elizabeth Aspenlieder and Dan McCleary. As it turns out the newcomers provide the evening with its most natural and noteworthy performances as Antipholus of Syracuse, Adriana's (Aspenlieder) sister Luciana and Dromio of Syracuse. That said, the whole cast embraces the combination Marx Brothers and Three Stooges zaniness with zestful exuberance and obvious delight.
This being Shakespeare's shortest play, artistic director Tina Packer in introducing it at last Friday's opening promised that the post opening festivities would begin two hours later. As usual, the pratfalls and somersaults took almost a half hour longer than promised. . .but, if the almost constant laughter at the pandemonium on the Founders' Theatre stage (and at times in the balcony) was any indication, apparently no one in the audience minded.
For anyone in need of details about how the plot is developed: The comedy or errors begins with a long monologue from the twins' father Aegon (Jonathan Epstein), whose search for his sons leads to his arrest as an enemy alien. (That arrest might be said to give the farce more serious underpinnings). The Aegon monologue, recaps the background of the twins' birth, the adoption of the Dromios and the shipwreck that separated the family for more than three decades. While Aegon is in jail, the Syracuse Antipholos, unaware of his long lost father's plight, is also in Ephesus in search of his family roots. Unlike his father, he receives a curiously familiar reception from the townspeople and Adriana who seems to think she's his wife. Unsurprisingly, he's more attracted to her sister Luciana which naturally leads to an ending that matches up everyone to live happily ever after, including Aegon and his wife who's been the abbess in a monestary (Ariel Bock -- who is married to Epstein in real life, as the play Adriana is married to its Dromio of Ephesus).
The Bomb-itty Of Errors , dubbed as the "Add-Rap-Tation of Willy Shakespeare's Comedy "
The Comedy of Errors, a high spirited romp mounted Off-Broadway by the Aquila Company.
The Boys From Syracuse a recent and not particularly successful attempt to bring George Abbott's musical back to life.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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