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Review: ‘The Comedy of Errors’
It’s no error: BoarsHead doubles the comedy in classic Shakespeare tale
It’s no secret that working together can put a tremendous strain on a marriage. So with that in mind, a gentleman approached Diana Van Fossen during intermission this past Saturday night at the BoarsHead Theatre and jokingly asked if either she or her husband, Geoffrey Sherman, was sleeping on the couch these days. No, she assured him with a grin, the co-directors of “The Comedy of Errors” survived the ordeal unscathed – their marriage is still intact.
And I think I know why: If what we experienced in the theater that night is any indication, the long-married couple must’ve had a blast staging this fun-filled Shakespeare comedy!
One of Shakespeare’s earliest works, “The Comedy of Errors” is one of those scripts that dares a director to let loose their inner Larry, Moe and Curly or Groucho, Harpo and Chico. It’s a broad comedy, loaded with physical humor. If you love slapstick, then this is your show; if not, check out “Othello.”
About the only thing missing from Shakespeare’s classic comedy is logic – but that doesn’t matter; this is a tale of misunderstandings and mistaken identities. To try and make sense of it would be, well, absurd!
Especially since the story actually begins more than two decades prior to the start of the play!
While away from home, a merchant from Syracuse – the ancient seaport in Italy founded by the Greeks, not the one on the Erie Canal in New York – and his wife have twin sons. Coincidentally, on the same day and in the same inn, another set of twin boys is born. But because the mother could not afford to keep them, the merchant, Egeon, agrees to raise them as his children’s servants.
While heading home, a storm destroys their boat, separating the family; each parent survives with one son and one slave. Upon returning home, Egeon honors the lost children by renaming HIS two with the other boys’ names: Antipholus and Dromio.
When the boys turn 18, they set out in search of their missing siblings. Egeon, too, leaves, hoping to find his long lost wife and son.
Five years later, “The Comedy of Errors” begins – with the arrest of Egeon in Ephesus. (The citizens of Syracuse and Ephesus hate each other.) However, Duke Solinus takes pity on him after hearing his story; Egeon is granted one day to raise bail – or forfeit his life.
Coincidentally – and this script is full of them – his boys are also in town, confused by the warm greetings they get from everyone they meet. Their twins, who live in Ephesus, are also confused – but by accusations others inflict upon them for wrongs they know nothing about.
Since this IS a comedy, it’s safe to reveal that the family eventually reunites and Egeon is set free – for what REALLY matters isnÕt HOW the story ends, but how WELL it’s told.
Based on the laughs generated by the small but very vocal audience last Saturday night, Sherman and Van Fossen tell the tale quite well!
Directors – God love ’em – are often tempted to re-conceive or update The Bard’s works into something “understandable” or “recognizable” – as if 21st century audiences are incapable of deciphering his plays. Often, all it does is anger or confuse the audience. (Placing ANY of Shakespeare’s plays into the realm of “Star Wars,” for example, is NEVER a good idea!)
Sherman and Van Fossen’s concept strikes middle ground: By setting their production on a Greek island resort complete with tie-dyed clothes, picnic baskets and Tupperware, they refresh it with a modern-day sensibility; yet by leaving the dialogue untouched, they remain faithful to the playwright’s core intent.
But, oh, do they – and their capable cast of 16 – push the comedy to its limits!
Especially enjoyable is Nathan Hosner (Antipholus of Ephesus) who storms about the stage with the perfect blend of rage and bafflement.
Nathan Pease (Dromio of Syracuse) and Sean Ward (Dromio of Ephesus) handle their physically demanding roles quite well, while Robert White (Angelo) has a frisky moment with Antipholus of Syracuse that leaves the audience rolling with laughter – and, perhaps, a little envious!
The best performances of the evening, however, belong to Cheri Lynne who digs deeply to bring depth to Adriana’s shrewish nature while never losing sight of her role’s comedic possibilities, and Neil Necastro Jr. whose marvelous portrayal of Antipholus of Syracuse simply lights up the stage from beginning to end.
“The Comedy of Errors” Presented Wednesday through Sunday at BoarsHead Theatre, 425 S. Grand, Lansing, through April 17. Tickets: $20 – $33. 517-484-7805. http://www.boarshead.org.
The Bottom Line: If Shakespeare wrote for TV’s “Fantasy Island,” this is what we’d get: handsome men, hot women and more laughs than Tatoo ever dreamed of!
Tidbits: More Theater News from Around Town
StarBrite extends popular play about desperately dissatisfied wives
The “Smell of the Kill” has turned into a sweet-smell of success for StarBrite Presents Dinner Theater.
A black comedy about three desperately dissatisfied suburban wives, the production was originally scheduled to close last weekend. But a fortuitous synergy with a certain ABC-TV Sunday night program has provided Artistic Director Randy Magner with a unique and somewhat unusual opportunity: He’s extended the production through April 30!
“We’ve had a great run with ‘Smell of the Kill,'” Manger said, noting that his production was scheduled long before “Desperate Housewives” hit the airwaves. “We’ve had several sell-out crowds.”
The play’s trio of suburban housewives, played by Audra Lord, Kathryn Ruth Mayer and Rio Scafone, are dissatisfied and disillusioned with their marriages. When their miserable husbands accidentally lock themselves in a freezer, the wives wonder if they should free the men or free themselves from their marriages.
It appeals, Manger said, to women looking for a ‘girls night out’!
Performances are held Friday and Saturday evenings at the 14th Street Pub, 350 East 14 Mile in Madison Heights. Cocktails and dinner are at 6:30 p.m.; curtain time is 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $39.50 per person, which includes a three-course meal and the show.
Visit http://www.starbriteprod.com for more information or call 248-589-9900 for reservations.