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A CurtainUp Review
Comedy of Errors
Following its tour of prisons, homeless shelters, senior citizen homes and community centers throughout the five boroughs, it lights down at the Public Theater's downtown home at Astor Place for a short run through November 22nd. Theater goers who catch it will be tickled by its ingenuity, raffish style, and unstuffy delivery of Shakespeare's verse.
Forgot the plot? No worries. There's a neat synopsis included in the program coupled with a reader-friendly map charting the dramatic characters and key events. It traces the life of Egeon and Emila and their identical twin sons (both named Antipholus) — and their adopted twin servants (both named Dromio) — and recounts the storm that separated them 33 years ago. It also tells of the literal comedy of errors that unfolds when Egeon and his twin son Antipholus of Syracuse, wander to Ephesus in "quest" of their long-lost family members.
The Comedy of Errors is an indestructible dramatic vehicle. I have seen it staged many times and it never fails to put the audience in stitches of laughter. Though this scaled-down production is less ambitious than the Public's Comedy of Errors at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park in 2013, it shares the same buoyancy of that al fresco outing.
The acting here is sassy and smart. The seven-member ensemble —Matt Citron, Bernardo Cubria, Flor de Liz Perez, Christina Pumariega, Lucas, Caleb Rooney, David Ryan Smith, and Zuzanna Szadkowski —know how to tug belly laughs from the audience. By all means, get to the theater early! All the performers are on hand, some juggling balls, others chatting with audience members before the play begins.
What makes this production hum byond the able acting, isthe swimmingly good direction. Kwame Kwei-Armah does wonders with the recognition scene of Act 5, which is notoriously tricky for any director to stage. He has added some stage business in this final scene that allows the actor Cubria, who doubles in the Antipholus roles, to differentiate his dramatic characters by deftly swapping hats to signal which Antipholus is speaking. It turns into a real comic tete-a-tete and Cubria's sleight-of-hand here is superb.
Although some have faulted The Comedy of Errors for not having much intellectual heft and psychological depth, the Shakespearean critic Marjorie Garber pinned down the comedy's mystique in her book Shakespeare, After All: "The depth of this play lies in its surface." So, don't try to scratch beneath the surface of this piece. The comic gold is in the physical comedy and the multiple confusions as Egon's splintered family search for one another.
What else is there to say? The Mobile Shakespeare Unit is in its sixth season —and going strong. And this Comedy of Errors succeeds through the sheer gutsiness and imagination of the actors and creative team.