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Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

The Comedy of Errors
Ohio Shakespeare Festival
Review by Review by Mark Horning

Also see Mark's review of You Can't Take It with You


Image Courtesy of Ohio Shakespeare Festival
Shakespeare is very much alive and well in Northeast Ohio, with three companies performing over the course of the year various works of the Bard. Currently, Ohio Shakespeare Festival has set up shop on the sixth floor of Greystone Hall that at 103 S. High Street in Akron. The newest work to tread the boards is their production of The Comedy of Errors which will play through April 30, 2017. The Comedy of Errors was an early work of Shakespeare and is considered one of his best comedies, using a combination of humor, slapstick, mistaken identity, and audience interaction.

A set of twins and their twin slaves are separated at birth due to a shipwreck, with one master and slave making their home in Syracuse and the others in Ephesus. To confuse matters further, they have the same names, Antipholus of Syracuse and his servant Dromio of Syracuse, and Antipholus of Ephesus and his servant Dromio of Ephesus. The play opens with their Syracusian father being arrested in Ephesus and slated to be executed unless he can come up with 1,000 marks to pay a fine, as the law forbids merchants from Syracuse from entering Ephesus.

Unaware of his father's predicament, Antipholus and his servant Dromio of Syracuse arrive in Ephesus in search of their twins only to be mistaken as the Ephesus pair. As the Syracusians arrive, Antipholus sends his Dromio off to deposit money at the inn. Antipholus of Syracuse then runs into Dromio of Ephesus who denies any knowledge of the money earning him a beating. Dromio of Ephesus goes to his mistress (wife of Antipholus of Ephesus) to tell her of her husband's refusal to return to the house. The wife suspects infidelity. Meanwhile, Antipholus of Syracuse takes the invitation of his twin's wife to have dinner at the house with the thinking that he is her husband. When her real husband attempts to return home he is refused entry to his house by Dromio of Ephesus. At first he wants to break the door down but a passing friend talks Antipholus of Ephesus into leaving and dining with a courtesan instead. Inside the house, Antipholus of Syracuse begins putting the moves on the mistress of the house's sister who, while flattered, is worried of the repercussions.

As Antipholus of Syracuse attempts to make plans to leave the city his brother becomes legally embroiled with a merchant who gave a gold chain the chain to the brother from Syracuse who he had promised to the courtesan in exchange for a ring she gave him. Money for bail is delivered to the wrong brother; an exorcist is brought in to "cure" the twin's apparent madness, as the two twins and their servants race around without meeting each other until the very end.

Seeing Shakespeare being well acted live is a joy. Comedy that had its beginning over fourteen hundred years ago still holds up and the actors' interaction with the audience adds a new dimension to the work. For those afraid of not understanding Early Modern English written in iambic pentameter, fear not. The action helps translate the words, making everything easy to follow.

This is especially true of this cast of exceedingly good actors. The play flows along at a breakneck pace (an important element with comedy) yet the comedic situations are easy to pick up on. Ernie Gonzalez plays Dromio of Syracuse whose comic expressions and asides alone are enough to evoke laughter. He is the core of the comedy on which the laughter is built. His double, Gordon Hinchen as Dromio of Ephesus, does a fine turn on stage as well. The final "mirror scene," a la the Marx Brothers, between the two twins is a delight.

Joe Pine is perfect as the unsuspecting Antipholus of Syracuse as he tries to bluster his way through the dilemma of mistaken identity. His double, Michael Knobloch as Antipholus of Ephesus, desperately tries to keep ahead of the law, his wife, and his mistress (at one time getting the audience involved with a wink and a finger to his lips). Josy Jones is Adriana, wife of Antipholus of Ephesus who is one of the few straight players that the comedy swirls around while Diana Frankhauser as her sister Luciana is titillated by Antipholus's advances and shows the right balance of shock and indignation mixed with desire. Karen L. Wood as the Abbess Amelia and lost wife of Egeon is the character who ties all the mystery together with a nice bow, giving closure to the play in a very dramatic way.

With a spacious two-tiered set, period costumes, the old world feeling of the theatre, and profoundly adept actors one feels as if they are at the Globe taking in an exceptional performance. While, for some, Shakespeare conjures up nightmarish visions of high school studies, one OSF performance will have you falling in love with the wit and wisdom displayed in this comedic work which will hopefully whet your appetite for more.

The Ohio Shakespeare Festival production of The Comedy of Errors will be on stage through April 30, 2017, on the 6th floor of the Greystone Building located at 103 S. High Street in Akron, Ohio. For tickets you can call (888) 718-4253 or go online at www.ohioshakespearefestival.com.


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