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The Comedy of Errors

By William Shakespeare
Judith Shakespeare Co.
The Mint Space
311 W. 43 St. (206-1515)
Equity showcase (closes July 22)
Review by David Mackler

(In repertory with Julius Caesar; call for schedule.)

The Comedy of Errors is the one with two sets of identical twins, and this leads to a lot of repetition as characters deny the actions of their doubles. The errors grow tedious after a while, but the Judith Shakespeare Company's production had consistently inventive direction by Joanne Zipay and some stellar comic performances that make it fresh all over again.

This is the 1920s-silent-movie-version, and it included more double-takes, over-emoting, dramatic entrances and exits, and vaudeville silliness than the Keystone Kops can shake their sticks at (yes, they're in there too). But even with two sets of twins to play with, Shakespeare doesn't give everyone equal time, and here the comic honors were stolen by James Pinkowski as Dromio of Syracuse and Ginny Hack as Adriana, Mrs. Antipholus of Ephesus. Pinkowski was terrific with his character's slapstick, and the rubber-faced Hack made the most of Adriana's befuddlement and anger. Both worked the silent-film motif, yet both still made good Shakespeare.

As did the rest of the cast. There were tremendous comic performances from Kate Konigisor as a wildly funny Angela (usually Angelo) the goldsmith, and Susan Beyer as a statuesque and not always so dim-witted courtesan. Good comic support was also offered by Kelli Cruz, whose Luciana never met a pose she didn't want to strike, and she was even touching trying to resist attraction to her brother-in-law; Dov Weinstein's wiseguy accent made his Merchant memorable; Mark Brey's Duke was a smarmily obsequious politician.

The Antipholuses are stuck with a lot of the "error" quotient, but Kevin LeCaon (Syracuse) and Clark Carmichael (Ephesus) handled their shares of the hysteria quite well, thank you. (LeCaon and Pinkowski were a very good vaudeville comedy duo.) Aegeon is saddled with the bulk of the play's exposition, which Jeffrey Shoemaker handled like a trouper, and Sherry Nehmer made the Abbess's tying-up-loose-ends speech a comic treat. As Dr. Pinch, Jeannie Dalton looked like Mary Pickford doing drag and was funny besides; Leese Walker seemed underused as Dromio of Ephesus (get that Shakespeare for a rewrite!), and it would have been a treat to see more of Tom Lenaghen, very funny as Nell, the kitchen wench. Dalton and Brooke Peterson also scored as very funny Kops.

Even silent films had sound accompaniment, and Matthew Loren Cohen provided nearly continuous silent-movie piano music (of his own composition), an endless array of sound effects -and he was quite a good comic reactor as well. Lighting (Jaie Bosse), however, was only adequate, with a strobe-light effect more notable for intention than execution. But the black-and-white set (designed by Jason Ardizzone-West) was exactly right, and the costumes (designed by David Kaley) were icing on this confection. Essentially black-and-white, the clothes had completely appropriate bursts of color where character demanded. Angela was dressed like a gypsy, the courtesan in red, the Dromios in plaid vests, and there were trimmings of orangey-pink for Luciana. After all, even silent films were hand-tinted to create just this kind of effect.

Also with Alegria Alcala and Jennifer Nadeau.

Box Score:

Writing: 1

Directing: 2

Acting: 2

Set: 2

Costumes: 2

Lighting 1/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2000 David Mackler