Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Shakespeare's comedy follows Egeon, a man searching for his lost wife and twin sons, who share the same name of Antipholus. A storm at sea caused their boat to be shipwrecked, which forced the twins, at a very young age, to be separated. One boy ended up in Syracuse; the other in Ephesus. The play begins with Egeon visiting Ephesus to find his family. At the same time, his son has also come to town looking for his brother. Both brothers have servants who are also twins, who also share the same name. Mistaken identity and confusion abounds in what is one of Shakespeare's lightest and shortest plays.
Director Pasha Yamotahari has updated the setting to the sun-drenched Miami beaches and city streets and while the colorful and exotic locale and zany characters would seem to fit well with one of Shakespeare's most farcical shows, the execution doesn't quite succeed. This is partly due to the Bard's language, which includes puns, jokes, and wordplay that don't really hold up well today, and also because of Yamotahari's decision to include slapstick that is too forced and a stream of updated supporting characters who aren't funny or remotely related to the Miami setting. For example, what do a Doctor who uses sock puppets on his hands when he speaks, a tap-dancing nun, a drag queen, a gangster, and a Harley Davidson guy with a chainsaw have to do with Miami? Perhaps the drag queen stumbled in from The Birdcage but the rest just don't make any sense. After a short time the entire idea and execution turn into a joke that wears too thin, too fast.
The cast throw themselves into the parts, but with only partial success. Tony Latham and William Wilson are energetic and even outrageous at points as the servant twins Dromio, while Jeremiah James and Wyatt Kent are less successful as the Antipholus twins. While they may be similar enough in look to suspend belief as twins, they are too different in their approach to the parts. The main women in the cast are very good. Emily Mohney is shrewish and expressive as the agitated and fiery wife of one of the twins and, as her sister, Melody Knudson is very comical and effective as a love-struck woman who is also very confused when she finds herself being wooed by a man she believes is her brother-in-law.
Beau Heckman puts plenty of humanity into the part of the father of the lost twins. Also, Jim Coates and Suze St. John are comically vibrant as a goldsmith and the aforementioned tap-dancing nun. A few other members of the cast are so broad in their delivery that they fall flat. Patrick Walsh's set is colorful and bright, evoking a sunny day in Miami, while Hayley Ashmore's costumes are zany and inspired.
Yamotahari is a gifted comedic director, as his spotless execution of last season's One Man, Two Guvnors at Phoenix Theatre proved, so it's a bit of a disappointment that he isn't able to transfer his proficient comedic skills into one of Shakespeare's most accessible comedies. In the end, the colorful characters work but the forced comedy doesn't, though the play still comes across as a bright and breezy romp.
The Comedy of Errors runs in repertory with Othello through January 30th, 2016, with performances at the Mesa Arts Center, 1 East Main Street in Mesa, AZ. Tickets can be purchased at swshakespeare.org or by calling 480.644.6500
Director: Pasha Yamotahari