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LETTERS TO EDITOR
The Comedy of Errors
Since its founding in 1991, the Aquila Theatre Company has gained a reputation for producing classical work with daring imagination and skill. Last year's Much Ado was an enormous artistic success still talked about among local theatergoers. This summer's production of The Comedy of Errors has been much anticipated, but as directed and adapted by Robert Richmond, one has the sense that stage effects and spectacle have been achieved at the expense of stage meaning and substance.
The Comedy of Errors has the distinction of being the only play by Shakespeare with the word comedy in the title. Nonetheless, its genre has been a source of debate since Coleridge first called it a farce. Cribbed largely from a play by Plautus, this play has often been said to push the envelope of classical comedy. It contains such mind-bending conceits as the use identical twins. Plausibility is further tested by a wild and mostly coincidental plot structure.
Director Robert Richmond and his athletic, daring cast do everything but turn themselves inside out. On the one hand, it is an endlessly imaginative, colorful, often exhilarating madhouse of a production. One can't think how theatre space could be used to greater effect. One the other hand, it is exhausting and finally tiresome. The opening scene, a rather long but arresting bit, includes the actors' slow-motion entrances. The curtain call is a confetti-strewn extravaganza of gestures that sends the audience home wide-eyed and grinning. Between these two bookends comes an array of highly inventive theatre bits, but one may ask whether they concentrate or divert the mind. Either way, one can't deny that the creative team knows how to make the stage come alive.
Artistic Director Peter Meineck states in his stage notes to the audience that this production promises to be fun and accessible. This is a fair a characterization of its achievement (note the family-friendly playing times). The audience, especially those under 12, did indeed seem to enjoy themselves, but just what they gained access to remains a mystery. Pratfalls and somersaults are a joy to behold, but there are times when the actors seem to repeat comic movements for no other purpose than that of getting a laugh.
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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