Rox and I squabbled about when to see "Comedy of Errors", a play I suspect neither of us wanted to see. I couldn't go on Tuesday or Friday, and although she knew better than to ask me to cut out on my Tuesday teaching job, she did say: "Can't you switch bartending shifts at the VFW on Friday?" To which I replied, "No. Can't you miss your Lindy Hop dance class on Sunday?" She couldn't. Just to be ornery I said I was going on Sundayand bringing a stand-in Jew to review it with me. I didn't find another Jew but I did find my neighbor and fellow writer Matt Duffus. Secretly, I was hoping Matt would be able to explain to me like I explain to Rox. I've never really liked Shakespeare, maybe because I get lost in a flow of words that seem more like a foreign language than English, but as it turns out, I loved "Comedy" and understood it. Well, mostly.
On the Plot
Elle: So let me get this straight. This is about mistaken identity, right? Twins separated at birth who somehow end up in the same place years later.
Matt: Not separated at birthat sea. And there's two sets: two Antipholus' (Judson Pearce Morgan) and two Dromio's (Randy Reyes) I admit that Egeon's (Richard S. Iglewski) monologue in the beginning was a little confusing but he talks about his being strapped to the mast of a ship with one of his twin sonsand the twin servantsand his wife being strapped to the other mast with the other set of boys.
Elle: Lost at sea? Then why was he wheeled on stage on a metal-framed bed? Somehow lashing himself to the bedposts didn't say "ship" to me. I got the bit about the twin sons, but I never would have figured out where the twin Dromio's came from if you hadn't explained it. You understood all this from the monologue?
Matt: Well, no. I've read the play.
Elle: Oh. Then you may as well explain the rest of the plot because I have no idea where they were and how they all ended up in the same place. Where was it, anyway? With the Safari garb Antipholus was wearing, I'm having visions of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness I really hated that book. Oh God, I'm becoming Rox, I'm getting off track. We'll talk about the costumes later. Just tell me where the hell they were.
Matt: More like Rudyard Kipling land. It felt like a hail-to-the-conquering-heroes, European colonizers thing to me. And I'm not sure about the purple jacket and fez ensemble on Antipholus of Ephesus, but it was a colorful contrast to his brother's tan safari jacket and shorts! Actually, since the play is supposed to take place in a seaside Greek city, I guess his outfit did have a slightly Mediterranean feel.
Elle: So how do they all end up in the same place after being separated all those years? I seem to have missed that part.
Matt: This is a bit complicated, I must admit. Antipholus of Syracuse decides to seek out his missing brother and his servant, Dromio, goes with him. (According to Egeon's opening monologue, that was five summers ago.) Conveniently, at the same time they arrive in Ephesus on their quest, their father also arrives. Just to add to the coincidences, Ephesus happens to be the place where the other Antipholus actually does live.
Elle: So Egeon is also searching. I missed all that. Thanks for explaining.
On the Director Dominique Serrand
Elle: I saw "Tartuffe" with Rox at Theatre de la Jeune Lune last year and I noticed some similarities to this play. People are always on the floorlying, sitting, rolling, falling. And he likes putting people on tall structures, or in the air. I bet Serrand's productions are so physical because he trained at the National Circus School and the Winter Circus School. Did you know that?
Matt: Yes, I did. I read the program.
Elle: Ok, what was that beach scene? You've got Antipholus lying on the floor, back up against the wall, his leg up sticking up in the air and then an umbrella pops out of the wall. Meanwhile, Dromio climbs to the top of the-what would you call it, Matt? The backdrop?spreads out his beach towel and starts putting on suntan lotion.
Matt I think we were supposed to see the backdrop as the beach, hence the illusion that they were both lying on it instead of being on the floor.
Elle: Well what about the swing and the trapeze? Must be that circus background again.
MattMaybe. Well, no, maybe not. I think the director was trying to make the ending more visually interesting than the plot at that point. Shakespeare's comedies tend to have pat endings: everyone gets together with their intended, and the conflicts fade away. I guess if we wanted to read into things we could see the swings as the twins' return to childhood (when they were last together), but I don't know if we should go that far.
Elle: Got it. It sure was an entertaining play. Funny. I think that's enough sometimes. You know, I overheard a woman in the row behind us say, "You don't have to look for any deeper meaning here." And Remember what Melodie Bahan, the Guthrie's PR gal said to me when we first walked in?
Elle: Melodie said she overheard a woman say, "I have no idea what's going on, but I can't stop laughing." I guess I feel a little that way now. I thought I knew what was going on but you seem to have understood more of it than I did.
On the Costumes
Elle: Safari ware, Fez hats, 70's disco attire, slinky dresses with high top tennis shoes, expanding skirts, quilted jumpsuits. What does it all mean?
Matt:I though it was an interesting visual way to update the play. I read what the costume designer said about the significance of the outfits, but frankly I just found them attractive to look at.
Elle: We should tell the readers what Costume Designer's Fabio Toblini was. In an interview, he talks about how multifaceted Shakespeare's characters are and says, "I want their garments to communicate those complexities and literally articulate their personality." So When we first see Adriana, (Michelle O'Neil) Antipholus of Ephesus' wife, she's wearing those white, long underwear like pants with the crotch that hangs down to the knees, symbolizing all is well (and pure) but as she grows more and more jealous he costume gets bigger and bigger. Toblini doesn't say anything about the opera singer with the egg on her head though.
Matt: At times, the "egg lady" and her compatriots seemed to be a sort of Greek chorus, explaining and adding to what was going on.
Elle: Well, they didn't really help me understand much of anythingthough I enjoyed them. Especially when they broke into Do-wap and that Hava Nagila-ish song-something for the Jews.
Matt: I think they were much more effective as an independent part of the performance. As the play progressed, they served less as a chorus and more as a respite from the action of the play. The director built a number of "errors" into the production itself (I won't go into this too much, though. I don't want to give anything away) which they were a big part of. Another part of this was the "other" Antipholus and Dromio who sat in the front row playing cards throughout the performance, waiting for the final scene when they were needed so that both sets of twins could be present at the same time.
Elle: So, in a sense Serrand has made this even more a comedy of errors by not just using Shakespeare's but by adding his own. Even how he used the Guthrie's stage
Matt: Exactly! See, you got more of this than you thought. The production "errors," especially with the raising and lowering of the stage, never overshadowed the play itself, but they made the play more accessible to a modern audience.
On the Actors
Elle: Dromio was my favorite. His face was elasticeven ten rows up.
Matt: You would have been able to see his face no matter where you sat. He was my favorite too, but Antipholus was excellent as the straight man. He had great presence on the stage, and even though he spent most of his time serving up lines for Dromio, Adriana, and her sister Luciana, it was hard to take your eyes off of him.
Elle: Luciana (Laura Esping) really charmed me. She starts out as sort of a "dumb blond"though she was wearing that wild black "fright wig" but as the play progresses, the comedy gets more and more physical. Like the scene where she's crawling on the kitchen table scarfing up food like some animal while discussing love with Antipholus of Syracuse. Speaking of Antipholus again, I loved it when, near the end, he kept breaking out in dance steps from...the 1920's? Rox would know. All I know is that it wasn't the Lindy Hop. She demonstrated it once for me. It looked pretty silly.
Matt: Shakespeare doesn't strike me as a Lindy Hop kind of guy. Before I forget, I'd like to put in plug for Adriana. Even though she plays the "heavy" for most of the play, I thought she was excellent, especially in the scenes with her sister. She delivered some of the play's lengthier speeches beautifully, and comprehensibly.
Elle: As usual, this is way over the word count. Anything else we forgot to mention?
Matt: Nope. Thanks for the invite, though. Let me know the next time Rox can't skip dance class.
Elle: I sure will! It's nice to have a new friend in the neighborhood!
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