Comedy of Errors
"Comedy of Errors," at SCERA Shell Outdoor Theatre
by Eric D. Snider
Published on July 17, 1998
Any theater attempting to do Shakespeare has its work cut out for it. His language is foreign-sounding to the modern ear, and it takes real skill to deliver the lines in a way that sounds both honest and intelligible.
Plus, if you happen to be doing "Comedy of Errors," as the SCERA Shell Outdoor Theatre currently is, the script is confusing as heck anyway, dealing as it does with two sets of identical twins, with each member of each set having the same name as his brother.
(Was that common then? Having twins and giving them both the same name? Wasn't it confusing enough to have them LOOK alike? Did audiences in Shakespeare's day roll their eyes, too, and say, "What kind of parents would do that to their sons?"? Just wondering.)
The plot: There's a guy named Antipholus (Randy Honaker) who has become quite a well respected fellow in Ephesus, and who is never far from his personal servant, Dromio (Verdon Walker, Jr.). Along comes Antipholus' long-lost twin brother -- also named Antipholus (John Lundwall) -- from Syracuse, with HIS personal servant, who is Dromio's long-lost twin, and who is ALSO named Dromio (Thane Bingham). Only none of the four knows that they even HAVE long-lost twins, and, thanks to the wacky nature of farce comedy, they're never in the same spot at the same time, so they never see each other and notice the resemblance.
Various people keep seeing one of the Antipholuses and mistaking him for the other, and soon even the servants are addressing the wrong men as their masters, and vice versa. It's all extremely wacky, in a dignified, Shakespearean kind of way.
And that may be a problem. For try as it might to be truly zany and farcical, the SCERA production still seems eminently Shakespearean, with a touch of the Three Stooges forced in here and there.
SCERA's production of "Comedy of Errors" is a mixed bag. It's confusing, to be sure -- that Shakespearean dialogue, coupled with the identity crises -- but also fairly amusing in some parts. Often, you can identify the parts that are funny, but it takes so long to process what they're saying that by the time you translate it, you forget to laugh.
Perhaps it can be blamed on the fact that it was opening night, but the audience I was in only laughed about a dozen times during the entire show. We were amused, and mostly entertained, but there wasn't always much to make us laugh out loud.
(Two exceptions, without giving too much away: hand-held signs announcing who the twins are -- the actors don't actually look alike, you see -- and an inspired bit of slapstick involving two apples.)
Shakespeare fans will probably enjoy this production, light-hearted as it is. But its fairly slow pacing and obtuse dialogue probably won't convert any non-fans.
Copyright © Eric D. Snider.
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