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The Comedy of Errors

a Comedy
CATEGORY : COMEDY
by William Shakespeare

COMPANY : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
VENUE : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
ID# 4095

SHOWING : September 03, 2011 - October 02, 2011

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Two sets of twins, one case of mistaken identity, and a nun walk onto the stage. No, it’s not the start of a joke, but it is hilarious! The Comedy of Errors takes Shakespearean funny to such slap-happy heights, you’ll be dizzy with laughter. This tale of the merchant twins Antipholus and the servant twins Dromio is full of errors, upsets, and fun.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Drew Reeves
Costume Designer Anne Carole Butler
Assistant Director/Lighting Designer Matt Felten
Stage Manager Cindy Kearns
Assistant Stage Manager Deborah McGriff
Adriana, wife to Antipholus of Ephesus Laura Cole
Luciana Kelly Criss
Angelo/Officer/Attendant Nicholas Faircloth
Dromio of Ephesus/Headsman Jonathan Horne
Aegeon/Balthasar/Officer Doug Kaye
Aemilia (Abbess)/Attendant Josie B. Lawson
Solinus (Duke of Ephesus)/Pinch J.C. Long
Nell/Jailer/Officer Vinnie Mascola
Antipholus of Syracuse/Jailer Matt Nitchie
Dromio of Syracuse Daniel Parvis
Antipholus of Ephesus/Jailer Jeffrey Stephenson
Courtesan/Attendant Amee Vyas
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REVIEWS

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Seeing double
by Lady Mac
Saturday, September 10, 2011
4.0
“The Comedy of Errors” presents a significant challenge for theater companies: There must be two convincing pairs of adult-male twins. One production I’ve seen of this show used two actors, each of whom portrayed both twins; this placed too much burden on the audience and made the “we meet at last” scene at the end a huge let-down. On the other extreme, some productions have had two sets of men who wouldn’t be mistaken for each other by Mr. Magoo; this, too, makes it hard for the audience to buy. However, the Shakespeare Tavern’s current production has hit upon the just-right combination: two sets of actors who look remarkably similar and require just a slight leap of faith by the audience. (Hey, we are asked all the time to believe that female characters actually fool others with their disguises as boys.)

Indeed, these pairs are the most similar-looking different-people pairs I’ve seen in any “Comedy of Errors.” Daniel Parvis and Jonathon Horne are the brothers Dromio; Matt Nitchie and Jeffrey Stephenson are the brothers Antipholus. While their personalities are quite a bit different – Parvis the light-hearted, fun-loving Dromio/Horne the pouty, besieged Dromio; Nitchie the mood-swinging sometimes-mirthful and sometimes-abusive Antipholus/Stephenson the naughty, party-boy self-gratifying Antipholus – their various associates’ confusion is not altogether ridiculous.

Parvis and Nitchie are brilliant and at the top of their games; they make an exceptional master/servant pairing. It helps that their characters are the more likeable set of the two, but the actors also have the power to charm the audience. Parvis shines even in small scenes, but he completely nails the extended comedic routine in which he describes his repulsion at the kitchen wench’s wooing (Shakespeare’s version of the “your mama’s so fat” jokes). It’s also one of the scenes that showcases this pair’s more amicable relationship, compared with the mostly frosty and more consistently abusive relationship between Stephenson’s Antipholus and Horne’s Dromio.

Also impressive is Kelly Criss as the appealing and obedient younger sister, Luciana, to the volatile and headstrong Adriana (Laura Cole). (Hmmm… Kate and Bianca?) Criss is believable and fun, though she falls back a few times on the goofy/giggly bit, and that doesn’t seem to mesh with the character. Cole, on the other hand, seems miscast in this role. She seems a bit out of place in the Antipholuses/wife/would-be girlfriend situation and is a little more shrill than necessary at times. (Disclaimer: This character in general is pretty irritating.)

The background characters are all capably portrayed by Tavern mainstays. Josie Lawson is authoritative as the abbess, J.C. Long is hilarious as the near-sighted (if he can see at all) Pinch, Nicholas Faircloth evokes pity as the desperate jeweler, Doug Kaye manages to keep us with him through the somewhat-tedious opening scene and does a fine job as the greatly vexed father (though the double casting of him in this play was not ideal), and Amee Vyas is seductive as the much-leg-displaying “material girl.” As Nell, Vinnie Mascola is … frightening. (The valley-girl accent is a bit too much, though. You half-expect him … er, her … to say “There’s, like, a guy at the gate.”)

The costumes are, not surprisingly, terrific, but it would have been nice if there were more differentiation between the masters’ and servants’ attire, which were the same color and very similar. The difference between them was subtle at best – belt and stitching – and the audience already is trying to keep straight which brother is which.

One other great choice of note in this production: the front-and-back view of the scene in which REAL Antipholus of Ephesus tries to gain access to his own home while his brother is inside in his place. With one side of the stage representing the party outside and the other side giving the interior view, the audience gets to see both sides of the gate. The scene also lends itself to some great physical-comedy touches.

Some of the kinks in the early-in-the-run performance I saw are sure to iron themselves out as the show goes on, and the chemistry is likely to click even more later in the run and during the repertory. If you see just one of the trio of comedies, you may want to select this one. It’s fast-paced and funny, and it represents one of the best “twins casting” efforts you’re likely to see anytime soon.
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