Slapstick is the operative word for The Comedy of Errors. No Hamlet-drama, no Measure for Measure-mixed messages, no history written to satisfy the Queen. Well, there is a death sentence passed in the first few minutes, but Egeon (Harley Diamond)'s plot exposition is so bizarre, and what follows is so loony, there's no question there will be vindication.
The identical-twins/mistaken-identity thing was not new even when Shakespeare did it, nor is it new to have the two sets of identical twins played by actors with opposing attributes. In the Gallery Players' production, Antipholus of Ephesus (Mario Prado) was dark, Antipholus of Syracuse (J. Brandon Savage) was blonde; Dromio of Ephesus (Douglas Scandron Stone) was short, Dromio of Syracuse (Ian Gould) was tall. Under the direction of Jeff Sult, the first three roles were played well, but the fourth was played superbly. Each had his moments: Prado was a forceful presence you could really believe would chew his way through the rope tying him up; Savage was best in his courtship of Luciana (a terrific Kimberly Jensen); Stone, with his perpetual hang-dog look, made an effective battering ram. Gould, however, turned throwaway bits into comic gems, and set-pieces into complete routines. His description of his run-in with the kitchen maid who mistakes him for his local counterpart was masterful, and hysterical. Even at their best, no one on stage was quite at his level -- everything about his performance was right.
Everything was also right about the costumes (Ekaterina Mitchev) and the set (Christian T. Planton). The men wore tunics, coats and sashes, but no trousers. Colorfully patterned boxer shorts predominated, fitting right in with the lunacy. The women were all tarted up, from the courtesan (April Poland) to Adriana (Jessica Bashline), and even the Abbess (Janice Kirkel) sported green stockings and heels. At the center of the stage was a well used set of crooked doors - sort of like Dr. Caligari by way of Feydeau. And the set was overshadowed by a large clock, which struck the hours counting down the time poor Egeon had left to find assistance to commute his sentence. The clock, however, was shown backwards, as if the whole play was being performed inside it.
An amusing gag with Gould and those doors was just one of the directorial bits that Sult showered on the play, but none were overbearing, and most were in service of the fun. It was corny to have Dr. Pinch (Brendan Antoine) played as a witch doctor, but not terribly out of place; Kevin O'Donnell and Steve Stromovicz were strolling musicians, adding merriment and nonsense; guns and cell phones abounded; the whorehouse had a vacancy/no vacancy sign, changed as needed. The lighting (James Stewart) was fine, and the cartoon-style sound and musical effects (uncredited) were very well used.
On the other hand, if anyone was looking closely, they would have noticed another difference in each set of twins immediately - they wore their sashes on opposite shoulders. But then there would have been no play, and as played here, when the pieces fall together, merriment, as they say, ensues.
Also with Darlene Violette, Leo Bertelson, Douglas
M. Elser, and Gary Hess, whose mandolin playing added
a tender sarcasm as necessary.
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Copyright 1999 David Mackler