I visited the Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City during the preview week of its 2014 season, watching the second preview show for each of the six plays. I will be posting my reviews all week on this blog. I will link my reviews as they become public.
Twelfth Night on 6/30/14
Henry IV part one on 7/1/24
Measure For Measure on 7/2/14
Sense and Sensibility on 7/3/14
Into The Woods on 7/4/14
Why go to the Utah Shakespeare Festival on 7/5/14
Unless otherwise noted, all photos used will be from the festival website, bard.org. Also, all information regarding tickets, seminars, tours, and classes for college credit is available there.
Remember to click on all photos in this post to enlarge them.
And now, the review of A Comedy of Errors:
The short version:
Oh my freakin' heck! This is THE FUNNIEST THING I have seen in at least a year! Do NOT miss it!
Ahem. *clear throat and looks around*
The more sophisticated version:
Shakespeare's A Comedy of Errors is what scholars believe is his earliest play that was good enough to make it into the compilation that his buddies put together after his death. Like nearly everything else he wrote, he stole the plot from elsewhere and then improved it so much that hardly anyone bothers to look at the original anymore. Much of the play is written in rhyming couplets or else ABAB rhyme, which certainly makes it feel less serious than his later works written in blank verse (such as Romeo and Juliet) or prose.
Shakespeare's idea of a comedy was a play where the protagonist didn't die and the couples work out the way that seems obvious, even if some of the matches are pretty stupid (such as Claudio and Hero in Much Ado About Nothing). Some of his comedies aren't very humorous at all, such as Measure For Measure or A Winter's Tale. But Errors is a comedy in the modern understanding of the word; it's just plain funny.
The basic plot is that a man has arrived in Ephesis, looking for his son Antipholus and his son's slave Dromio, both of whom left home (Syracuse) 7 years before in order to find their twin brothers (one the twin of the son and one the twin of the slave), from whom they were separated in a shipwreck when they were very young. The father is arrested, however, as he's thought to be a spy. He's given 24 hours to find someone willing to pay for his bail or else he'll be killed. In the meantime, unbeknownst to him, Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse have arrived in Ephesis, unaware that their twin brothers -- known as Antipholus and Dromio of Ephesis -- live in the town. Adrianna is married to A of E, but A of S is unmarried. And.... well, you can guess just how funny things get.
The Utah Shakespeare Festival did Errors in 2009, and it was hilarious then. But this time, director Brad Carroll has decided to set it in San Francisco during the 1849 Gold Rush. And it works!
You might not think that turning the play into a melodrama would work, but it is SO very funny! At least once every 2 minutes was a laugh-out-loud moment. Seriously.
Imagine, if you will, not only the twin confusion of the script, but the "witchcraft" of Ephesis portrayed as sideshow freaks from PT Barnum's then-new "Greatest Show On Earth." And the chase scene in the fight near the end portrayed as a shoot out, ended only when the Abbess, with a voice fit for Calamity Jane, comes out with a rifle to break up the rowdies. It's hilarious.
Adding to the mayhem is the fact that this version departs from the usual trick of dressing the twins just slightly differently so the audience can tell who's who. Have a look at this photo from the 2009 version (set in Turkey):
Well, the 2014 version has each set of twins dressed EXACTLY alike, so that one must tell the two Dromios apart by their voices and the two Antipholi apart by their slight height differences and the fact that A of E must wear the ring given to him by the courtesan.
Now, this 2014 version of Errors is so very accessible that it is perfectly understandable to Shakespeare newbies. Got a spouse/friend/child who thinks that Shakespeare is scary/boring/old? Drag them to this, and they will realize the Bard is not at all inaccessible.
Folks, if you can only afford to see one Shakespeare play this year, A Comedy of Errors is the one to see. If you miss it, you will be sorry!