Corrections or additions?
This review by Jack Florek was prepared for the July 9, 2003 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Review: `Comedy of Errors’
We came into the world like brother and brother,"
says Dromio of Ephesus to his twin brother Dromio of Syracuse. "And
now let’s go hand in hand, not one before another."
Despite the play’s sweeping range of madcap misdirection, the concept
of brothers, lost and found, is at the heart of "The Comedy of
Errors." With its current production of one of Shakespeare’s earliest
plays, the Princeton Rep Company gets the most bang for its brotherly
buck with fine performances by two sets of actors — Jo Benincasa
and Christopher Pollard Meyer as the Antipholus twins, and Gaius Charles
II and Jason Henning as the two Dromios. Besides some other excellent
performances, the production sports some fast-paced and true laugh-inducing
direction as well as a host of subtle, yet visually potent, design
Now in its third full season of presenting Shakespeare under the stars,
Princeton Rep’s "The Comedy of Errors," updated to a Latin
beat and set in the DayGlo paradise of mid-1980s Miami, can be seen
onstage at the amphitheater in Princeton’s Pettoranello Gardens on
Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, at 8 p.m. through July 13. Tickets
are free, with a suggested donation of $10. Call 609-921-3682.
In order to best enjoy "The Comedy of Errors," an audience
must first be willing to set aside any need for storyline plausibility
because Shakespeare’s farce has enough mistaken identity and mischance
to make a sit-com writer blush. Egeon, a merchant of Syracuse (Bob
Armstrong), is arrested and sentenced to death by Solinus, the Duke
of Ephesus (Benton Greene). But moved by Egeon’s story of losing his
wife and one of his twin sons (both named Antipholus) in a shipwreck
many years earlier, the Duke grants him 24 hours to procure ransom
money and save his life.
But unbeknownst to Egeon — and to all concerned — both Antipholuses
are currently in Ephesus, now located on the East Coast of Florida.
The possibilities of confusion are increased by the presence of the
two Dromios, twin servants to the twin nobles. Adding still more layers
to the muddle is that each set of twins, by pure chance, wears matching
Shakespeare exploits this wholly unlikely situation with dizzying
speed. Adriana (Nell Gwynn), the wife of Antipholus of Ephesus, mistakenly
dines with Antipholus of Syracuse, who subsequently makes love to
Adrian’s sister Luciana (Sheryle Wells). Angelo (Alfredo Narciso),
sells a gold chain to one twin which winds up in the hands of the
other. When in need of payment to save himself from being arrested,
Angelo misguidedly demands money from the wrong Antipholus. Further
misadventures, morphed into the 1980s, involve a she-devilish courtesan
(Carolyn Smith), a hip-hop drug dealer (Victor Dickerson), a beach
security guard (Henning Hegland), and Emilia (Alison White), an abbess
in the church along the boardwalk, who also happens to be the long-lost
wife of Egeon.
While not exactly mirror images of one another, both Benincasa and
Meyer turn in equally strong performances. Benincasa’s Antipholus
seems to be a bit more whimsical, while Meyer’s adds endearing dashes
of agitated befuddlement. Both deliver the Shakespearean dialogue
with a light touch, easily picking out the comic passages, and making
it seem as natural as if it were coming out of the mouth of Jack Tripper
in the old "Three’s Company" TV show.
Being two of Shakespeare’s comic clowns — who in
this case wear multi-color beachwear and clutch skateboards —
the two Dromios come across as a bit more cartoonish, yet they’re
still believable in this unbelievable play. While neither actor looks
anything like the other in a physical sense, both have one another’s
mannerisms down pat — adding spice to the theatrical soup.
Nell Gwynn and Sheryle Wells, as the pleasantly self-absorbed ladies,
provide their own brand of broad fun as does a chillingly glamorous
Benton Greene as the Duke and the Conjuror, Doctor Pinch. Victor Dickerson
and Carolyn Smith give memorable, workmanlike performances in their
The set and costume design add a Fauve-like filmic quality to the
presentation that is lovely to look at. Deceptively simple, Tim Amrhein’s
set recreates the aura of an oceanside resort using bold colors of
blue, purple, green, beige, aqua, and yellow. There is even a string
of pink flamingo lights dangling across a breezeway.
Joanne Haas’ costumes add even more texture to the visual strength
of the show, from a sleekly refined purple suit worn by the Duke to
the Don Johnson-like sportcoat over a T-shirt on each Antipholus.
Troy A. Martin-O’Shia’s sensitive lighting makes the whole thing glow
in the summer night, strikingly bordered on opening night by a field
of flickering fireflies. Sound quality is markedly better this season
due to some welcome electrical upgrades to the amphitheater.
Director Tom Rowan keeps the pace moving nicely, punctuating moments
of Shakespearean poignancy with tasteful bits of light 1980s comedy
along with an occasional dance number. Usually Rowan stops just short
of truly campy, but some touches — such as the repeated sound
of an angelic choir blaring out with every opening of the church door
— tend to wear a bit thin.
Nonetheless, "The Comedy of Errors" is a fun show that tastes
like candy, yet remains respectfully aware that Shakespeare is, after
all, high art.
A few words of advice to those attending the show — come early
because parking is limited, bring a cushion to sit on, and apply plenty
of mosquito repellent.
— Jack Florek
Pettoranello Amphitheater, Community Park North, Route 206 at Mountain
Avenue, 609-921-3682. July 11-13, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at
8 p.m. Free, but $10 donation requested.
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