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Review of Trinity Shakespeare's A Comedy of Errors
Trinity Shakespeare 2014
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- Trinity Shakespeare Festival - The Comedy of Errors - 2014
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A Joyous Production
Shakespeare must have written A Comedy of Errors with a smile on his face. Just as his career as actor and playwright was opening before him, riding the success of his Henry VI plays, the bard sat down to pen this, his first comedy, borrowing plot elements from Italian comedies, throwing in what would become his signature word play. This is the spirit that Trinity Shakespeare captures, a sense of joy at the cleverness of the language, an exhilaration as each irony unfolds. And yet, North Texas's premier Shakespeare company also captures the darker thread that runs through the play. The melancholy streak that would later inform Shakespeare's great tragic works is here, even in his most raucous comedy.
The play opens with surprise as Aegeon (played by the inimitable David Coffee), father of two sets of identical twins, unfolds the sad tale of his life to the authorities of Ephesus. Trinity Shakespeare makes the startling but effective decision to treat this scene as a back room interrogation, where the Duke and his henchmen beat Aegeon before hearing his story. This dark opening casts a pall over an otherwise uproarious play, reminding the audience that death is always lurking. When Antipholus of Syracuse arrives in Ephesus, he is gloomy. Richard Haratine brings to the role the same brooding melancholy he brought to the role of Antonio in The Merchant of Venice and Brutus in last year's marvelous production of Julius Caesar. These early scenes throw the later comedy into sharp contrast but they are important because the show us glimpses of the tragic themes that would later become the focus of Shakespeare's work.
The rest of the play proceeds at breakneck speed as the identical brothers move through Ephesus, repeatedly mistaken for one another in such a rapid series of stage and costume switches, that the audience is left dazzled. It is a great credit to stage manager Bonnie Hanvey that this Comedy of Errors remained perfectly error-free. To keep up with the rapid-fire dialogue and crazy plot twists, scene changes are managed using simple revolving door frames that help transition us from the Duke's jail, to the house of Antipholus of Ephesus, to the abbey that figures in the play's conclusion. The rest of Ephesus is created through a series of miniature set pieces that cluster around a series of walkways up to a balcony behind the stage, creating a wonderful sense of depth and giving plenty of places for hilarious entrances and exits.
A Comedy of Errors
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A Stellar Cast
In the lead roles are Richard Haratine and Jakie Cabe who play their hilarious double-roles with stunning precision. While most stage productions of A Comedy of Errors cast different actors in the roles of each Antipholus and Dromio, Trinity Shakespeare doubles down, letting the skill of Haratine and Kabe shine as they create distinct personalities for each twin, using posture, body language, facial expression, and accent to signify the character change. This highlights the similarities and differences between the brothers and heightens the hilarity as each is taken for the other. Backing up the leads is an exceptional supporting cast whose skill truly elevates this production as they carry the plot forward. Lyndia Mackay plays the role of Adriana, the long-suffering wife of Antipholus, with the kind of solid professionalism it requires. She and Amber Flores (Luciana) have to play most of their scenes straight, the voice of reason faced with the play's bizarre turns of events, and they do it excellently, letting the comedy sink in as they try to respond rationally to seemingly impossible happenings. The citizens of Ephesus drift in and out of each scene, creating a sense of a populous city and raising the comic stakes by providing a second "audience" for the leads' antics. Each part is acted so well that we truly get a sense of the individuality of each minor character. Liz Mikel as the Abbess, almost steals the show in the final act as she goes toe-to-toe with the Duke, angry merchants, an angry wife, and the whole town of Ephesus.
A Must-See Production
For its stellar cast, its glorious sense of fun, and its impressive stage direction, this production of a Comedy of Errors rates 5 stars out of 5. This reviewer advises you: don't walk, run to your phone and order tickets before they are sold out! This production is not to be missed.