The Comedy of Errors

Shakespeare’s early farce “The Comedy of Errors” seems to be everywhere right now. The four-man “Bomb-itty of Errors’’ is romping along merrily Off Broadway, Bay Area director Danny Scheie has helmed small-scale productions in Berkeley, Calif., and Seattle, and now Mark Brokaw has staged a briskly entertaining Arabian Nights view of it for the Hartford Stage. Brokaw & Co.’s a-funny-thing-happened-on-the-way-to-Ephesus take on the play cleverly balances textual clarity with physical rough and tumble.

With:
Egeon - Frank Raiter
Solinus/Balthasar - Nafe Katter
Syracusan Merchant/Dr. Pinch - Wally Dunn
Antipholus of Syracuse - Christopher Duva
Dromio of Syracuse - Brian Mysliwy
Dromio of Ephesus - Brooks Ashmanskas
Adriana - Tara Falk
Luciana - Genevieve Elam
Antipholus of Ephesus - Jeremy Shamos
Angelo - Jesse Tyler Ferguson
Merchant - David Jung
Officer - Blaise James
Courtesan - Ruth Gottschall
Messenger - Richard Stanton
With: Andi Jackson Ali, Russell Fish, Heather Hauswirth, Yvonne Marchese, Drew Scott and Therelza Watson.

Shakespeare’s early farce “The Comedy of Errors” seems to be everywhere right now. The four-man “Bomb-itty of Errors” is romping along merrily Off Broadway, Bay Area director Danny Scheie has helmed small-scale productions in Berkeley, Calif., and Seattle, and now Mark Brokaw has staged a briskly entertaining Arabian Nights view of it for the Hartford Stage. Brokaw & Co.’s a-funny-thing-happened-on-the-way-to-Ephesus take on the play cleverly balances textual clarity with physical rough and tumble.

It’s not surprising that “Comedy” should bring “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” to mind: Both Shakespeare’s farce and the musical are based on plays by Plautus.

And just one look at the Courtesan (Ruth Gotschall) in this “Comedy,” in all her under-dressed, well-endowed glory, makes it obvious that she’d be equally at home in the musical.

As it happens, there’s a lot of music in this production. Lewis Flinn has supplied a rambunctious score that spicily mixes faux Middle Eastern touches with echoes of orientalia and the Caribbean, as do Neil Patel’s set and Kaye Voyce’s costumes.

Patel covers the stage floor with an elaborate, if age-worn, design on which two peripatic silver palm trees and a windmill-shaped hut roam. Overhead hangs a curved suspension bridge outlined in lights.

The costumes, using lots of silks and brocades, mix periods and places too. It all works brilliantly.

Being a farce concerning two sets of twins — two Antipholuses and two Dromios — there’s the inevitable plethora of mistaken identities.

Brokaw and his cast thoroughly enjoy themselves with the endlesss mixups, and the play’s happy ending sends the audience home smiling. The clarity with which almost the entire cast projects the text is a major reason for the smiles, and text and vocal coach Deborah Hecht deserves much credit.

The two servant Dromios probably have the best material in the play, and this production has two expert comic actors, Brian Mysliwy and Brooks Ashmanskas, playing them, the latter being particularly droll physically.

The two Antipholi are also well projected by Christopher Duva and Jeremy Shamos. Tara Falk is splendidly brisk and no-nonsense as Adriana, and Genevieve Elam, wearing bookish spectacles, is endearing in a lower-key way. Senior actor Nafe Katter brings his Shakespearean expertise to both Solinus and Balthasarm, and no one lets the production down seriously.

What is most impressive about this “Comedy,” which has already had its run extended by four performances through May 13, is the way Brokaw knows how far to go with farce and when to call a halt. The results are thoroughly refreshing.

The Comedy of Errors

Hartford Stage Co., Hartford, Conn.; 489 seats; $43 top

Production: A Hartford Stage Co. presentation of the play by William Shakespeare in two acts. Directed by Mark Brokaw.

Creative: Set, Neil Patel; costumes, Kaye Voyce; lighting, Frances Aronson; music, Lewis Flinn; sound, Janet Kalas; text and vocal coach, Deborah Hecht; dramaturg, Christopher Baker; fight director, Rick Sordelet; production stage manager, Laurie Goldfeder. Opened, reviewed April 12, 2000. Running time: 2 HOURS.

Cast: Egeon - Frank Raiter
Solinus/Balthasar - Nafe Katter
Syracusan Merchant/Dr. Pinch - Wally Dunn
Antipholus of Syracuse - Christopher Duva
Dromio of Syracuse - Brian Mysliwy
Dromio of Ephesus - Brooks Ashmanskas
Adriana - Tara Falk
Luciana - Genevieve Elam
Antipholus of Ephesus - Jeremy Shamos
Angelo - Jesse Tyler Ferguson
Merchant - David Jung
Officer - Blaise James
Courtesan - Ruth Gottschall
Messenger - Richard Stanton
With: Andi Jackson Ali, Russell Fish, Heather Hauswirth, Yvonne Marchese, Drew Scott and Therelza Watson.

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