Anyone who reads my reviews regularly knows that I'm a fan of Shakespearean re-imaginings. Sure, I like my Shakespeare played straight as well, but sometimes when one of his plays is tinkered with in just the right fashion it comes to life in new and unexpectedly exciting ways. Such is the case with the Rep's slapstick take on The Comedy of Errors, which is given the background of New Orleans during Mardi Gras, and given a Heavy Dose of 1930's period music to liven things up considerably. It's a brilliant take and leaves the Rep with a perfect batting average for the season. It's the reason why we go to Rep in the first place; they consistently provide entertaining shows that are expertly acted and directed, in a theatre that puts you right on top of the action. What more could you ask for?
For the uninitiated, Shakespeare's plot concerns pairs of identical twins separated at birth, thanks to a handy shipwreck (an overworked device by Shakespeare). One set lives in Ephesus, while the other grows up in Syracuse. Chance brings the pair together, but not before a series of cases of mistaken identity threatens the sanity of all involved. I've always thought that the film, Start the Revolution Without Me, was a pretty good take on the idea (and the dismal The Corsican Brothers, a rotten twist on the same concept).
Chris Mixon and Michael Fitzpatrick are twins, both named Antipholus (not very imaginative work there by Shakespeare, but useful nonetheless to the plot) and Doug Scholz-Carlson and Christopher Gerson are twins, both named Dromio. All four do superior work here, and their interplay between each set of mismatched twins is very well done. Lenny Wolpe is also good as the father who is searching for them named Egeon. He has one day to discover their whereabouts before he's put to death by Solinus (Walter Hudson), the Duke of Ephesus. Accompanying him on his journey is Jailer/Officer Aaron Orion Baker.
Tarah Flanagan and Kate Fonville impress with their work as Adriana (wife to Antipholus of Ephesus) and her sister, Luciana, respectively. Tina Fabrique (not seen here since her turn in Ella) is the Abbess who's given a chance to really let loose with her formidable vocal chops. Christopher Hickey pulls double duty as Balthasar and the buxom, lovestruck Nell.
The rest of the supporting cast is also excellent and includes: Evan Fuller (Luce), Jim Poulos (Angelo), Ryan Fonville (Second Merchant), Shanara Gabrielle (Courtesan), Jerry Vogel (Dr. Pinch), Kurt Hellerich (Agador), and Adrianna Jones, Dakota Mackey-McGee, Thomas Eric Morris, Joey Otradovec, and ChrisTina Ramirez.
Director Paul Mason Barnes pulls out all the stops for this production, inserting a bevy of musical interludes, as well as incorporating some hilarious bits that add a great deal of merriment to the proceedings. Jack Forbes Wilson pulls double duty as Merchant/Harry as well as acting as musical director/arranger and onstage pianist. Erik Paulson's scenic design is simply splendid, with a lovely recreation of Bourbon Street coming to life in multiple levels. Margaret Weedon's costumes are also a real treat, adding period as well as Southern flair. Lonnie Alcaraz contributes a lighting scheme that keeps the action clearly in focus.
The Rep's production of A Comedy of Errors is another in a long line of must-see shows that they've presented this season. It's certainly one of the best adaptations of this particular work that I've ever seen, and it continues through April 8, 2012 on the main stage at the Loretto-Hilton.