Comedy of Errors
On a stage constructed with a slightly distorted perspective that mimics the characters own views, a looming blue door and silver streetlamp sets the American Players Theatre production of Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors. The bard’s humorous romp tells the tale of two pairs of twins separated at birth and a father who searches for his sons. It literally plays like an early Indiana Jones movie set with an exotic local under William Brown’s direction. Egeon (David Daniel), the distressed father waiting to be executed at sundown on Ephesus, is costumed here to resemble that iconic movie character — complete with a flying fedora.
Even if this interpretation appears over the top, the audience gathered at the Up the Hill outdoor stage assimilated quickly to this campy, if not nostalgic take on Shakespeare. The actors possess an aptitude for Monty Python antics while remaining true to the Bard’s rhythmic meter and message. The production revisits 1940’s film noir and romantic comedy with touches of Saturday Night Live sketches thrown in for good measure. When both of Egeon’s sons land on Ephesus on the same day, unknown to him, the plot unravels like Indiana’s whip. It takes an adventurer’s “leap of faith” with Shakespearean dialogue, and this becomes increasingly more accessible to the audience which is enhanced even further by Andrew Hansen’s original music to underscore this theme.
In a remarkable bit of casting, double sets of twins insure the plot’s believability, with Antipholous (Marcus Truschinski and Andy Truschinski) and their servants, Dromio (Steve Haggard and Darragh Kennan). They capture the sense of identical persons almost perfectly. Especially enchanting were both Dromios, utilizing a fool’s sense of humor with assurance and comedic timing while adding immense pleasure to every scene. As the entire and very capable cast moves up and down the central aisle in the theater, the audience becomes more involved in the play’s dynamics with each minute.
Perhaps Adriana (Carey Cannon), wife to Antipholous of Ephesus, and her sister, Luciana (Susan Shunk), embody Shakespeare’s observations on humanity most clearly, incorporating talented sincerity into their roles while displaying 40’s femininity with wavy brunette hair and platform stilettos. It is their mistaken assumptions about each Antipholous that resembles contemporary human behavior, jumping to unfounded conclusions in jealously, indignation, and anger before asking or knowing the true facts. Shakespeare says towards the beginning of the two hours, “Does every why have a wherefore? When the why or wherefore is never rhyme or reason?”
But in Comedy of Errors, Shakespeare deliciously provides “happily ever after” even though Egeon’s life lies in the balance, awaiting beheading because of his lack of funds to pay the visitor’s tax in Ephesus. He miraculously overcome in the nick of time, true to an Indiana split second finish. However, in modern life, misassumptions and impatience often create damage and destruction in serious circumstances and relationships, more difficult to repair than writing a tidy but satisfying ending to a script. Human errors in misjudgment extract a stressful toll, which Shakespeare so cleverly reminds the audience.
But on a cool summer evening for their 30th season, American Players Theater through Shakespeare’s genius infuses the stage with their unique brand of professionalism and inspiration in the Spring Green setting, an entertaining night for all ages that echoes with personal truth when the cast dances off the stages to a standing ovation. This assumes with hope that in the following days the audience may reflect on this Comedy of Errors in their own lives, trying to engender patience and persistence for the truth while asking, “What error drives our eyes and ears amiss?”
American Players Theater presents Comedy of Errors at the Up-the-Hill Theater until October 4. For information or tickets, call 608.588.2361 or www.playinthewoods.org.