“The Comedy of Errors” gets a glitzy makeover with the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s newly mounted version that has added a number of Broadway-style songs to Shakespeare’s shortest play.
A collaboration between Director Alan Paul and composer/lyricist Michael Dansicker, the play offers the story’s usual zany gags and physical comedy, following the lives of two sets of twins who are separated following a shipwreck. What is new, however, is Dansicker’s hilarious, original songs that sizzle and shine, and which on opening night, Oct. 1, had the audience applauding wildly.
One of Shakespeare’s earliest works (1594), the play is set during Christian era in the busy port of Ephesus where Egeon of Syracuse (Ted van Griethuysen) is being condemned to death for violating a travel ban between the two rival cities that have a trade war. He recounts how he has been searching for his family for years after a shipwreck separated him from his wife, one of their twin sons, and one of the twin servants they raised. Moved by the old man’s story, the town’s Duke (J. Bernard Calloway) takes pity and gives Egeon one day to raise the money to pay the fine that will spare his life.
Unknown to Egeon, both of his twin sons are in Ephesus, one a prosperous resident and one just having arrived after searching for five years for his long-lost brother. Both are accompanied by the twin servants (both named Dromio) who have served them faithfully over the years. This sets up the comical case of mistaken identities, slapstick humor and madcap hijinks that follow. Included are Antipholus’ wife, Adriana (Veanne Cox), unable to distinguish her husband from his brother; hysterical antics by three actors (proteans) who pop up in every scene; and a side-splitting exorcism attempt by the occultist Dr. Pinch (Sarah Marshall).
The two Antipholuses are superbly played by Christian Conn and Gregory Wooddell, with similar star-turns from Carter Gill and Carson Elrod, playing the servants Dromio. The three proteans (Matt Bauman, John Cardenas and Justin G. Nelson) play just about everyone from tap dancing police to nuns to gnarly, old waiters. (In one of the funniest scenes, one serves a diner a still, live and wiggling octopus).
Cox as Adriana is a hoot as the wife who cannot understand why her husband suddenly spurns her and Folami Williams as Adriana’s sister, Luciana, does a fine job as she spurns the advances of her sister’s mad ‘husband.’ Calloway is dignified as the duke who doubles as a kitchen cook, Luce, who is obsessed with one of the Dromios.
As the town’s goldsmith, Angelo (Tom Story) is over the top funny and Eleasha Gamble is seductive as a courtesan who has a sexy striptease song midway in the show. Matt Zambrano plays a tailor demanding to be compensated for money owed to him by Angelo and Nancy Robinette doubles as a no-nonsense nun and Emilia, Egeon’s long-lost wife.
Paul capably directs this talented cast, shortening the script to 90 minutes, without an intermission, allowing the songs and dance numbers, choreographed by Karma Camp, to add additional humor to the play.
In one of the show’s biggest scene stealers, Marshall, as Dr. Pinch, gets the biggest laughs of the night, reeling around the stage with a crucifix held aloft as the cast sings “Pack it up and get out Satan!” while an incense burner is tossed around a like a football. James Noone’s ingenious set smartly changes from a fish market to an upscale home to a courtyard, while props like a potty-mouthed parrot add to the onstage entertainment, along with lots of gay humor.
“The Comedy of Errors” is silly, light-hearted farce that will have you laughing out loud. The show’s opening hails the starts of STC’s Michael Khan’s final season as artistic director.