by Terrance Mc Arthur
Two sets of separated twins, a death sentence, a gold chain, cross-dressing, mistaken identities, a seductive courtesan, a duke, and a mysterious Abbess. It smells like Shakespeare.
The Comedy of Errors is my favorite Shakespeare play. I don’t think it’s his best play, but I’m very fond of it. It’s my favorite because it’s the first Shakespeare play I performed in (Bakersfield College, 1970). Now, the Good Company Players are presenting it at the 2nd Space stage through October 12.
Director J. Daniel Herring has plunked the story into the slapstick world of the Italian Commedia del Arte, the improvisational theatre of the Renaissance that gave birth to characters we know as Harlequin and Punch. The actions are broad, and the characters are broader. Pratfalls, double-takes, and the crack of real slapsticks abound.
Years before, a family with two twin boys and their twin servants were sent in different directions by a shipwreck, ending up in Syracuse and Ephesus. Father is looking for his lost son, while his other son seeks his brother. They all end up in Ephesus…and that’s when the play starts, and things get confusing. Look for identifying colors in the costumes and physical characteristics, but you’ll still be asking yourself who is who and what is what.
Mathew Rudolf Schiltz and Ken Stocks play the sons, gamely trying to be calm centers in a vortex of insanity. They may not be peas in a pod, but they’re at least eggs in a carton.
The servants in Harlequin-diamond attire are Danielle Valdivia and Brianne Janae Vogt, hop-skipping across the stage as if they were string-controlled marionettes, spreading mirth and confusion. Danielle gets one of the play’s comic gems, the “She is spherical like a globe” speech, describing one amorous kitchen wench of a certain size in geographical terms.
Brooke Aiello struts across the stage as a pompous Duke with a deliberately-ghastly moustache, who tries to bring order to chaos, only managing to stir up more chaos. She also chases one of the servant twins as a certain buxom serving wench. Brooke can handle any role that comes her way, and she always makes an indelible impression.
Erica Riggs plays a frustrated wife with an icy sternness, while Anmoni “Nikki” Purewal gasps as the sister who thinks she’s being pursued by her brother-in-law.
Heather B. Rule debuts with GCP as a self-assured merchant, and Kevin Carillo frantically frets, looking a lot like Chris Kattan. Benjamin Geddert oozes feminine charm as a slow-talking woman of buyable virtue who seems to have some degree of magic about her.
Henry Montelongo abandons the forceful characters he is known for to become a frail father seeking his misplaced family. Patrick Tromborg channels Wallace Beery and the voice of the animated King Lion (not to be confused with the Lion King) from Disney’s “Bedknobs and Broomsticks.”
Errors was one of Shakespeare’s first plays, and doesn’t have the soaring quality of his tragedies, but it’s light and cheerful, and this production floats nimbly, thumbing its nose at logic. It may become one of your favorites, too.
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