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A CurtainUp Berkshire Review
Comedy of Errors
Director Taibi Magar, in her debut effort at this bastion of the Bard, has channeled into her merry mix, comedy styles ranging from Abbott & Costello to television's Housewives of New Jersey. Along the way there are reminders of the Marx Brothers and especially The Three Stooges (Bam! Biff! Bop!).
Shakespeare's early comedy is about two sets of twins, one set of high birth, one of servant class. Separated as babes by fate, they end up â€“ one master and one servant in each duo, in the cities of Ephesus and Syracuse. The story of their tragic separation opens the play in a poetic monologue by Egeon (Malcolm Ingram) the father of the two well born men.
We're signaled at the start that this will be a free-wheeling staging by the presence of a cigar smoking Duke (Josh Aaron McCabe doing a perfect, jutted jaw, Don Corelone - o.k. Marlon Brando).
Scenic Designer John McDermott has provided a playground of a set that could easily be on the boardwalk of Atlantic City or Asbury Park, New Jersey. Apparently Kelly Curran who plays Adriana, the razor-tongued wife of Dromio of Ephesus, suggested the cast use "Nu Joisey' accents and the results are very funny indeed.
The plot capitalizes on the confusion that results when the two sets of twins end up in the same city at the same time. Their mistaken identities lead to confusions that involve a wife, an overdone dinner, a gold necklace and a wad of money. These complications are multiplied with each wrong identification.
Five actors, new to the company, make their debuts here and lend outstanding support even at the risk of life and limb in this physical knockabout. Especially auspicious is the work done by newcomers Aaron Bartz and Ian Lassiter, playing, respectively, the twins from Ephesus and Syracuse. It's rare, if ever, that a single actor plays either two of these parts. It can be done, as demonstrated here, with split second timing and the stamina of Olympians. Especially Bartz, who, as Dromio of Syracuse, is victim to the most slaps, slugs and beatings - all for a laugh.
(Hey, wait! I can hear Shakespeare buffs saying. HOW can two actors play four characters that must, all four, be on stage at the same time at the end of the play? Don't look for a "spoiler alert" from me on this one— just take my word, the dilemma is solved most cleverly.)
Curran is a total hoot as Adriana. Her "Jersey" attitudes -from lip to hip are priceless. Her nasal snarls could untangle a plate of linguini from twenty paces.
Director Magar incorporates musical interludes presented karaoke style, with bicycles and roller skates showing up as popular modes of transportation. The only things missing from a total Jersey Shore experience are cotton candy and salt water taffee.
Other welcome newcomers include Jenelle Chu as a courtesan; Ben Chase as a police officer and Daniel Rios, Jr. as a merchant. Company regulars adding their bit to the merriment include Douglas Seldin as Luce, the abundantly plump kitchen wench (see note above); Christiana Nelson as the gentle Abbess who holds a key to understanding past events, and Michael F. Toomey as the totally confused Angelo.
New team members on the production side include, in addition to McDermott â€“ Tilly Grimes, whose just right, just-shy-of-tacky costumes add to the fun; Stowe Nelson whose sound design works as hard as the cast, and finally, Jesse Perez, whose choreography fills the evening with infectious rhythm, and led to my (hopefully) unnoticed breech of conduct in the parking lot.
From start to finish, this is well-oiled, well played comedy, and at 90-minutes running time (no intermission), it's over sooner than one might wish.