The Comedy of Errors, by William Shakespeare. Directed by Taibi Magar. Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman.
L-R: Kelley Curran as Adriana, Aaron Bartz as Dromio of Ephesus, Ian Lassiter as Antipholus of Ephesus, Ben Chase as the Officer, Malcolm Ingram as Egeon, Douglas Seldin as Luce, Christianna Nelson as the Abbess and Cloteal L. Horne as Luciana; photo: Enrico Spada
"She rides me and I ache for grass."
Ian Lassiter and Aaron Bartz; photo: Enrico Spada
"Picture it," as Sophia used to say on The Golden Girls, "Sicily, 1963. A young girl falls in love with her brother-in-law. Her own sister goes to the local Don for revenge over a necklace and the local slut wants a diamond. Money exchanges hands. Pasta flows freely. The kitchen maid has two husbands. And there's music."
Add in an old man facing certain death for entering an area forbidden to him by the local authorities and you pretty much have the plot of "The Comedy of Errors" now on stage in Lenox, Massachusetts at Shakespeare and Company's Tina Packer Playhouse. Transposed into the last century where the Mafia has control of Ephesus, prepare yourself for a very different sort of show. In truth it is the sort of juxtaposition of logic and magic that Tony Simotes was bringing to the Bard of Avon's output in his last years with the company before he ran afoul of his board.
There are some very funny performances in this quirky edition of the classic comedy. Josh Aaron McCabe gives Duke Solinus a Marlon Brando voice and jaw. Douglas Seldin brings his own parody-play to Luce. Christianna Nelson turns the Abbess into a picnicker with passion. Malcolm Ingram gives Egeon a simplicity that indicates too much time in the sun. Jenelle Chu is Michelle Pfeiffer on speed. Ben Chase on rollerblades is authority without authority. Michael F. Toomey plays Angelo as a mobster and we still like him a lot.
And those are the smaller roles in a play about mistaken identity and two sets of identical twins being constantly confused for one another. As the twin Dromios, the servants of two masters, Aaron Bartz has a marvelous time with his two characterizations, each one more confused than the other and more injured as well. As their masters, the Antipholuses, Ian Lassiter plays a much broader range of differences and he does them both extremely well.
The two sisters are also wonderful. Kelley Curran as the ultimate Mafia wife Adriana is superb, actually, whether singing into a convenient hand-mike or taking the sun on her plastic deck chair she is convincingly sad and bent on revenge against her transgressing husband. Cloteal L. Home takes her sister in a very different direction as her awakening feelings threaten to put her own head on Adriana's chopping block. Home adds a delicacy to the proceedings that is very welcome indeed.
The production team has recreated the place and the period without anything more solid than a picnic bench and a charcoal grill. John McDermott does wonders with these simple things in his basic set design. Tilly Grimes has provided the most appropriate costumes imaginable. Matthew Miller keeps the Sicilian sunshine paramount and adds in just enough disco lighting to keep the period of this show in front of us. Stowe Nelson has apparently been behind the songs and they also scream of the era.
Newcomer Taibi Magar offers audiences a chance to see this show in a new way and that way is definitely worthwhile. Don't go expecting anything traditional, but think "Sicily, 1963" and all of the absurdity that phrase implies.
Douglas Seldin as Luce, Kelley Curran as Adriana, Cloteal L. Home as Luciana; photo: Enrico Spada
The Comedy of Errors plays in repertory on the Tina Packer Playhouse stage at Shakespeare and Company, at 70 Kemble Street, Lenox, MA through August 23, 2015. For tickets and information about the play, which runs 91 minutes without an intermission, call the box office at 413-637-3353 or go on line at www.shakespeare.org.