The Comedy of Errors
The problem certainly isn't the material. Just a few weeks ago, I was fortunate to catch a delightful, high-spirited production of the same play (since closed) just an hour north of the city at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival. The cast there breathed new life into the deliberately ridiculous tale of two sets of identical twins separated in childhood. The story: Antipholus and his servant Dromio have traveled from Syracuse to Ephesus, not knowing that Ephesus is the city where their long-lost twins residealso named Antipholus and Dromio. It's a situation perfect for mistaken identities. Soon there are complications involving a wife, a gold chain, a rope, and some angry businessmen, all on the way to a happy ending.
But there's not much that's happy about the Classical Acting Academy's production. The cast seems lost, speaking slowly and deliberately, robbing nearly all the lines of humor. Most of the actors seem to have little feel for the rich language, and are either trying too hard to make the audience laugh or not trying at all. The two actors playing the Dromios do some impressive somersaults (for some reason), but all they prove is that there's a difference between being an acrobat and being a clown. Only one performer rises above the mediocrity to make an endearing impression: Amy-Helene Carlson, who has some nice comic moments as Luciana, the sister-in-law to one Antipholus who is romantically pursued by the other. Still, you know a production of The Comedy of Errors is in trouble when the funniest person onstage is Luciana.
Director Rosemary Hay's production is a jumble. Instead of getting laughs from Shakespeare's rich characterizations, this Comedy tries to get them through pratfalls and cartoon sound effects. It all seems sadly desperate. Nothing seems at stake here, so it's hard to care how these characters end up.
Ah, well. Better luck next year.
The Comedy of Errors runs through August 21, 2011, at The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre, 2111 Sansom Street. Tickets are free on a first come, first served basis, available at the Box Office three hours before curtain each day. For more information, call the Box Office at (215) 496-8001 or visit phillyshakespeare.org.
The Comedy of Errors