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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
THE COMEDY OF ERRORS
at Shakespeare in the Park

COMEDY GOLD
By SANDY MACDONALD

  Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Hamish Linklater and Emily Bergl/ Ph: Joan Marcus

Even before this Comedy of Errors begins in earnest, you get your money’s worth – and then some, considering that admission is free. Superb swing-dancers choreographed by Mimi Lieber make the time fly, and the furnishings, too, when they return seriatim as stagehands, rearranging John Lee Beatty’s 1930s-era Syracuse (upstate New York version), a streetscape out of Reginald Marsh. You can’t help wondering, why doesn’t every production make art out of the set changes? Maybe because they don’t have director Daniel Sullivan as driving visionary.

It’s a fast whirl through Shakespeare’s shortest play – over and out in a mere 90 minutes – and if there’s anything of great value excised, you will surely not miss it. What’s left is pure comedy gold, appealing to all ages. Little kids will be intrigued by the opening, in which the questing merchant Egeon (Jonathan Hadary), relating the tragic tale of twin sons separated at sea, pulls out ever larger visual aids from a suitcase, up to and including a ship’s mast.

We’re in a master’s hands. The most salient inspiration in this production is Sulllivan’s decision to cast a single actor for each set of twins. That would be Hamish Linklater as both Antipholus of Syracuse and Antipholus of Ephesus, and Jesse Tyler Ferguson as their respective servants, both named Dromio.

Ordinarily, the actors playing this quartet of characters take great pains to underscore the similarities, trying to put over the twinship. Linklater and Ferguson are free to explore the differences, and Linklater makes the best use of the disparity. His Syracusean Antipholus is a goombah, a hood; the Ephesus version is more of a sensitive New Man, which makes him quake at his twin’s wife’s jealous rages (energetic Emily Bergl as Adriana) and susceptible to the charms of her more rational sister (Heidi Schreck as Luciana).

If Ferguson’s Dromios aren’t so clearly delineated, it may be because both servants serve primarily as whipping boy, and increasingly confused messenger. As the conflicting cross-directives mount, Ferguson lets loose his inner clown, which has never hidden far beneath the surface in any case.

Food fights, singing nuns (with guns), De’adre Aziza (as the courtesan) finessing a smoky “Sigh No More” complete with scat finale – what more could you ask? The only worry hanging over the whole magical mess is how Sullivan will pull off the twins’ reunion at the denouement. If it’s handled less imaginatively than the rest of the play’s hilarious turns, that’s only by comparison. By then you’re likely to be fully sated, and disinclined to find fault.

 


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