The ASP’s wild and wooly take on Shakespeare’s shortest (and funniest) play, THE COMEDY OF ERRORS, is only running through Oct. 19th so race to the Brighton High School or you’ll miss one of the best shows of the season.
Shakespeare borrowed the bones of his plot from Plautus’ earlier version but not content to have only one set of twins to run amok, the Bard added a second set to be their servants, thereby quadrupling the laughter. (Each twosome of man and manservant has the same names as the other couple, just to solidify the confusion. You can see why nerves are gloriously frayed.)
Director David R. Gammons ups the complications a wee bit more by setting the comedy in a down at heel country circus where an impatient ringleader (Cameron M. Cronin of Imaginary Beasts fame) puts his performers through their paces. The more exasperated Cronin becomes, the better for us. He gripes endlessly at the troupe’s hilarious missteps, consulting a miniature, suede bound collector’s copy of the script. The only thing more delicious is a resentful Cronin all dolled up in red wig and gown to play a courtesan because he’s run out of performers.
The ERRORS do get sorted out and the misunderstandings ironed out but not before reaching wit’s end: Plungers are drawn as weapons, dinnerware goes air born and an elephant trumpets his protest from back stage. A goodly half the actors double and triple roles, without regard to age or gender so a pink bewigged, bearded Richard Snee becomes the coy sister of one twin’s wife. Snee pulls it off so demurely, we can see why the other twin is smitten! Gammons’ game actors manage the controlled hysteria like skillful jugglers, never “run[ning] the humour out of breath.”
Jesse Hinson’s twin desperately gestures his lines as if we haven’t heard or understood them. Omar Robinson, as Hinson’s twin, likewise shouts his dialogue…which stands to reason as each is mirror to the other, in appearance and dubious judgment. Susan S. McGinnis and Eddie Shields join the romp of mistaken identities as the servants. (It’s Gail Astrid Buckley’s inspired costumes which really identify the characters.) Without the “hat”-“no hat” device we would have no hope of separating Sarah Newhouse’s characters who appear together, simultaneously!
Paige Clark masters five (six counting the sideshow conceit) characters with aplomb and Ryan O’Connor towers over the proceedings with vacant, back ringed eyes, in a skeletal costume inspired, perhaps, by a Tim Burton movie. His “hollow eyed” schoolmaster is the “living dead man” Shakespeare describes. Even his Nell is frightening. Adding to the humor are David Wilson’s musical and sound punctuations. O HAPPY DAY, indeed.