by Judith Jarosz · August 17, 2014
This adaptation of The Comedy of Errors is a very energetic take on Shakespeare’s shortest and one of his most farcical comedies. Adapted and directed by Michael Hagins, it keeps most of the Bard’s words intact. For those who don’t know the play, it is a silly but fun story of two sets of identical twins that are accidentally separated at birth. The grown Antipholus of Syracuse and his servant, Dromio of Syracuse, arrive in Ephesus, which unbeknownst to them is the home of their long lost twin brothers, Antipholus of Ephesus and his servant, Dromio of Ephesus. When the Syracusans encounter the friends and families of their twins, a series of wild mishaps based on mistaken identities ensues.
The acting talent here is uneven, and some of the hard working, fast moving cast occasionally get so caught up that they run too quickly over their text, making it hard to understand. Michael Rehse and Rich Wisneski as Antipholus of Syracuse and Ephesus, and Melissa Meli and Laura Mae Baker as the Dromios of the same, do a nice job of keeping up the energy, as does Vanessa Wendt as the put upon wife Adriana and Chelsea Rowe as her sister Luciana. There is a lively knock down fight between Wendt and Emily DeSena as the courtesan, with fight direction by Hagins that is a crowd pleaser, and in general the cast commits fully to the frenetic style.
The 1940’s addition to the title is confusing. Period style is always a challenge, and of course budgets are limited in FringeNYC shows, but with the exception of some attempts at 40’s type hairstyles on some of the ladies, I saw very little to indicate that era. Most of the colorful and flattering costumes by Alexa Crisitello look more modern day or from the 1950’s. The set by DeSena (who also plays The Courtesan) is a plain wall of curtains that work well as doorways, allowing for the quick entrances and exits needed for the farcical style. Hagin’s states in his directors notes that he is a big fan of many different types of cartoons, and indeed there are humorous references to many classic beloved cartoon characters here including the amorous skunk, Pepé Le Pew, that crazy rabbit, Bugs Bunny, and the fast and furry-ous, Road Runner. Hagins has created some lively innovative staging, including a chase scene that lasts about ten minutes with actors running on and off the stage at breakneck speed which the audience seemed to enjoy. It might be more accurate to call this show “A Cartoon Comedy of Errors”