by William Shakespeare
Directed by Stephanie Shine
Seattle Shakespeare Company
at Seattle Center
305 Harrison St. Seattle, WA 98109 / (206) 325-6500

Reviewed by Jerry Kraft

"The Comedy of Errors" is a light comedy by any measure. One of Shakespeare's earliest works, it was greatly influenced by "The Menaechmi" by the Roman comic playwright, Plautus. With two identical twin boys separated in their youth and unaware of the other's existence, along with their twin servants, both named Dromio, it goofs on mistaken identity, compromised fidelity and the desire to resolve the self and self-history. At the end it also resolves with the last minute salvation of Aegeon, the father of the twin boys (both named Antipholus), and the return to a proper order of romantic attachment.

As if to acknowledge its slight premise, "The Comedy of Errors" frequently breaks into song and dance, rowdy chases and that mechanical staple of farce, the revolving door. In this production, director Stephanie Shine hits just the right weight for all this nonsense while sustaining just enough thematic sincerity to keep it all grounded. The actors are talented and well-balanced, and there is a real sense that this is pure fun, but not purely preposterous, an easy entertainment built around an intriguing story.

Shine's decision to set it in Cajun Louisiana is a canny and effective choice. The Mardi Gras traditions of masquerade, bawdy revelry and musical romance all fit neatly into the action of the play. The transformation of Dr. Pinch into a voodoo witchdoctor was funny and seemed quite appropriate to the dubious nature of Elizabethan medicine. Jason Phillips' set design with its overgrown tropical decadence created a lush and exotic environment enhanced by Doris Black's well-finished costumes and Tim Wratten's evocative lighting design. Don Darryl Rivera's original music was relevant and enjoyable.

The opening of the play, with Aegeon facing the hangman's noose, was unexpectedly macabre given the circumstances of Saddam's recent demise, but it also reinforced Shakespeare's emphasis on the life and death consequence of reuniting these brothers and this family, the key thematic line beneath all the comic complications. As Aegeon, Gregg Loughbridge had charm and a rascal's swagger, as well as a fine singing voice. We never doubted for a minute that he would be rescued from the rope, but it was equally clear how he had gotten into such a predicament.

As the twin sons, MJ Sieber and George Mount both had a delicious sense of riding along on a comic current that provided amusements, distractions and plenty of romantic enticement. Sieber was especially good at giving us a sense of trying to remain astride a life that was wildly unbridled, while Mount played his character as a man trying equally hard to regain control over events that had grown distressingly disruptive. As Adriana, the wife of Antipholus of Ephesus (Mount), Deborah Fialkow had fine comic expression as the eternal wife wondering why her husband seems to have lost interest, and determined to win back his affection, albeit by unwittingly taking the other brother (Sieber) into her house. The wonderful Alexandra Tavares plays the younger sister with just the right moonstruck swooning, and seemed quite sufficient reason for the instant rapture of Antipholus of Syracuse (Sieber). Finally, the two servants Dromio, played by Gabriel Baron and David Goldstein, maintained a slapstick comedy balanced by credible loyalty to their masters. Both were funny, apparently effortless fools toiling at the slipping gears of the play's machinery.

Seattle Shakespeare Company has a solid history of gathering many of Seattle's best actors and producing admirable, sometimes quite brilliant productions. "The Comedy of Errors" isn't brilliant, but it is certainly admirable, and entertaining in large part because of its honest and consistent fidelity to the play's limited intentions. It's a delightful production, and in its fresh and good-spirited playing, a pleasure to experience.

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