Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Comedy of Errors

‘THE COMEDY OF ERRORS’ played for laughs at GLTF

‘THE COMEDY OF ERRORS,’ now on stage in repertory at the Great Lakes Theatre Festival, is the only one of his plays to contain the word “comedy” in its title. And, that, in and of itself, makes it a perfect vehicle for GLTF to produce. First, Charles Fee, the Artistic Director of the company loves comedic farce and does it extremely well. Adding to that the company contains Andrew May, who has never encountered a funny face, a tortured moan, or an over the top scene, he hasn’t devoured.

The play, as far as is known, is one of William Shakespeare's earliest scripts. It is a show that invites slapstick, while playing on mistaken identity. It develops through puns and wordplay, which were aimed at the intelligence level of the groundlings, who stood around the base of the thrust stage during Elizabethan times and did everything,. including throwing spoiled fruit and oral barbs at the actors.

It was first printed in the First Folio in 1623, and the earliest known performance is recorded to have been at Gray's Inn, one of London's law schools, on December 28th, 1594.

Don’t go expecting a serious message or a moral. This isn’t that kind of Shakespearean script.

This play’s obvious plot concerns the separation, then reunion of Egeon and Emelia (husband and wife), their twin sons, and their twin servants. The family is separated at sea during a storm, 33 years before the play starts. When one of the grown twins arrives in Ephesus, which turns out to be the home of his twin, a series of mishaps leads to wrongful beatings, arrests, accusations of infidelity, theft, and chaotic madness.

The production is out-and-out fun, with Fee and May having a great time in staging and acting out the insanity.

May plays both of the twins Antipholus. The concept works well until the end, when both twins must appear on stage at the same time, and then the notion falls apart. The actor playing the other Antipholus is not nearly May’s physical double and the switch is very obvious. The same holds true of the attempt to have both Domio (the servants) played by Ian Gould. The duo tracking is obvious.

The other problem with Gould’s double role is that he doesn’t do either of the twins well. His attempt to use a lisp doesn’t help. That, along with poor articulation and errant vocal projection, makes many of Domio’s lines difficult to understand.

Lynn Allison, as Adriana, the wife of Antipholus of Ephesus, yells through the role, paying little attention to line meaning. On the other hand, Gisela Chipe is charming as her sister.

Fee, in his attempt to add humor onto humor, has David Anthony Smith, who plays a goldsmith, elongate all the numerous times he says, “chain.” It works the first four or five times, but after a while the whole shtick becomes annoying.

Besides May’s performance, the highlight of the show is Martin Céspedes’s inventive choreography. His use of latin movements, meticulous attention to movement detail, and creative set changes, are captivating. Without his inventiveness the overall cohesiveness of the show would have been lost.

Again, the new GLTF facility, with its electronic stage elevators and intimate seating, enhances the production as does Russell Metheny’s set design and Charlotte Yetman’s costumes.

‘CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: GLTF’s ‘THE COMEDY OF ERRORS’ is a delightful interpretation of the Shakespeare farce. It’s fun, fun, fun thanks to Charles Fee, Andrew May and Martin Céspedes.