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A CurtainUp BerkshiresBerkshire Review
The Comedy of Errors

Every why hath a wherefore. --- Dromio, Act 2, scene 2

Michael Milligan & Anne Gottlieb
L to R: Michael Milligan as Antipholus of Syracuse, Anne Gottlieb as Luciana.
(Photo: Kevin Sprague)
Mistaken identity, one of Shakespeare's favorite comedic devices, made its first appearance in The Comedy of Errors. Inveterate borrower of existing plots that he was, the Bard appropriated this comedy from one entitled The Menaechmi by the Roman Plautus and doubled the fun of the twin mixup by providing the master twins, both named Antipholus, with twin servants, both named Dromio. Their childhood separation via a shipwreck leaves one Antipholus and his Dromio growing up in Ephesus, and the other master-servant pair in Syracuse. The tragically torn asunder twins are comically reunited 33 years later when the Syracuse Antipholus and Dromio head to Epheus in search of their lost twins -- but not before their father is arrested for landing in Ephesus illegally (the bustling shipping port is not exactly friendly to strangers) and a series of nonstop farcical twists and turns involving master and servant, husband and wife -- not to mention a sister-in-law and mistress.

All these artificial and mysterious happenings and the mix of alternate rhyming, puns and doggerel don't represent Shakespeare at his mature best. However, the opportunity for riotous fun to appeal to kids as well as adults has insured the Comedy's popularity ever since it was first performed in 1594 and actually caused a minor riot when people unable to find even standing room, forced their way in.

Shakespeare's own take on the Plautus comedy has inspired additional and often major departures from the original through the years. That includes George Abbott's hit musical The Boys From Syracuse, which most modern audiences know mainly via the vintage film (1940) in which both Antipholus from Syracuse and Epheus were played by Allan Jones and both Dromios by Joe Penner. The funniest and most edgy adaptation I ever saw was a brilliantly original yet true to Shakespeare hip-hop version by three NYU students called The Bomb-itty of Errors. Shakespeare & Company's just opened Comedy is without a doubt the most beautiful I've ever seen.

Not to take anything away from the high energy cast, the true stars of Cecil MacKinnon's production are Kris Stone's double-tiered set, Arthur Oliver's eye-popping costumes, Lap-Chi Chu's exquisite lighting, especially for Susan Dibble's exquisitely choreograhed between scenes dance sequences. Stone's sherbert-colored palette is offset by a black and white checkered floor that invites playful hopscotching and pratfalls. With eight doors on the upper level, plus a marvelously inventive revolving door down below -- not to mention the requisite hidden holes for surprise pop-up appearances and disappearances-- MacKinnon has out-farceured the genre that is defined by having at least four doors to highlight its comic misunderstandings. To clarify the complicated story of the lost twins, the director has cleverly introduced poster-sized baby photos -- a decidedly modern touch that work beautifully.

In keeping with its commitment to growth and change as well as continuity, the cast represents a good balance of long-time Shakespeare & Company actors and newcomers. Thus Michael Milligan, Anne Gottlieb (in their first season in Lenox) and Tony Molina (in his second season) , are paired with long-time company members George Hannah, Elizabeth Aspenlieder and Dan McCleary. As it turns out the newcomers provide the evening with its most natural and noteworthy performances as Antipholus of Syracuse, Adriana's (Aspenlieder) sister Luciana and Dromio of Syracuse. That said, the whole cast embraces the combination Marx Brothers and Three Stooges zaniness with zestful exuberance and obvious delight.

This being Shakespeare's shortest play, artistic director Tina Packer in introducing it at last Friday's opening promised that the post opening festivities would begin two hours later. As usual, the pratfalls and somersaults took almost a half hour longer than promised. . .but, if the almost constant laughter at the pandemonium on the Founders' Theatre stage (and at times in the balcony) was any indication, apparently no one in the audience minded.

For anyone in need of details about how the plot is developed: The comedy or errors begins with a long monologue from the twins' father Aegon (Jonathan Epstein), whose search for his sons leads to his arrest as an enemy alien. (That arrest might be said to give the farce more serious underpinnings). The Aegon monologue, recaps the background of the twins' birth, the adoption of the Dromios and the shipwreck that separated the family for more than three decades. While Aegon is in jail, the Syracuse Antipholos, unaware of his long lost father's plight, is also in Ephesus in search of his family roots. Unlike his father, he receives a curiously familiar reception from the townspeople and Adriana who seems to think she's his wife. Unsurprisingly, he's more attracted to her sister Luciana which naturally leads to an ending that matches up everyone to live happily ever after, including Aegon and his wife who's been the abbess in a monestary (Ariel Bock -- who is married to Epstein in real life, as the play Adriana is married to its Dromio of Ephesus).

The Bomb-itty Of Errors , dubbed as the "Add-Rap-Tation of Willy Shakespeare's Comedy "
The Comedy of Errors, a high spirited romp mounted Off-Broadway by the Aquila Company.
The Boys From Syracuse a recent and not particularly successful attempt to bring George Abbott's musical back to life.

By William Shakespeare
Directed by Cecil MacKinnon
Cast: Elizabeth Aspenlieder (Adriana), Jason Asprey (Angelo), Ariel Bock (Abbess), Martin Bonger (Balthazar), Mel Cobb (Duke of Ephesus), David Demke (Dr. Pinch), Jonathan Epstein (Aegeon), James Robert Daniels (Second Merchant), Anne Gottlieb (Luciana), Zachary Green (Jailor) George Hannah (Antipholus of Ephesus), Nevin Kumar (1st Merchant), Dan McCleary (Dromio of Ephesus), Michael Milligan (Antipholus of Syracuse), Susannah Millonzi (Nun/Townsperson), Tony Molina (Dromio of Syracuse), Louise Rosager (Courtesan), Renee Speltz (Luce).
Scenic Design: Kris Stone
Costumes: Arthur Oliver
Lighting Design: Lap-Chi Chu
Sound Design: Jason Fitzgerald
Vocal/text coach: Elizabeth Ingram
Movment director/choreographer: Susan Dibble
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 25 minutes , includes one intermission)
Shakespeare & Co., Founders' Theatre, 70 Kemble St, Lenox
Call or see website for 8pm performance schedule: 413 637-3353;
August 4, 2004 to September 2, 2004; opening 8/13/04 $10-$49
Wed.-Sun at 7:30 pm
Tickets: $10 to $49
Review by Elyse Sommerbased on August 13th press performance
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Historic Red Lion Inn

Tales From Shakespeare
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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Our Review

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Berkshire Hikes &

The Berkshire Book

Great Places to Eat, Shop, Stay

Sheffield Pottery
In Lee:
Morgan House Inn & Restaurant
In Lenox:
Andrew De Vries Sculptures

In Williamstown
Pappa Charlie's Deli
Thai Garden
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©Copyright 2004, Elyse Sommer, CurtainUp.
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