A cheerful production of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, the Bard’s earliest comedy (possibly his first play ever), was staged by Bill Marlowe’s Revelers Drama troupe at SFCC this month. Marlowe himself directed with expected energy and verve, using an unusually swift, clean, and locally flavored adaptation of the original by none less than The Inlander’s busy theater critic Michael Bowen. In addition to cutting, revising, and retouching the prose, Bowen also undertook a role of crucial authority onstage, in the person of the Duke, whose judge-like appearances bookended the play and both triggered and concluded the delightful confusion. That Bowen pulls off all his roles rather well was perhaps the happiest news of the evening, given the many ways his ambitious efforts could have disappointed.
The Comedy of Errors depends on something of a stretch. Identical twin brothers, sons of a wealthy merchant (here called Cleon), are separated soon after birth in a storm at sea. In the same storm, another set of identical infants, sons of a poor woman, are also separated. One boy from each set is thereafter raised by Cleon, while the other two mismatched boys are kept by the mother in another city, neither set knowing what happened to the other. (Hate when that happens.) And all of this happens decades before the play even begins. Whew.
Further complicating the bustle is that both sets of boys are identically named. Where Shakespeare called both twin noblemen Antipholus, Bowen renamed them Nicholas; the two servants, formerly each known as Dromio, were here both Yoyo. (Comical, yes — but is that more credible a name?). These sobriquets are of course necessary for misidentifications to work, but the befuddlement could easily spread out from the stage and hopelessly into the house. Shakespeare helped satisfy the problem by identifying one set as being from Ephesus, and the other from Syracuse; Bowen helpfully reset the towns as Hillyard and Kennewick, and — what do you know? — that was fun. Marlowe’s deft direction and, especially, his bright costume plot (Renae Meredith designed the set and coordinated costumes) made relationships clear, without betraying the (in)credibility of mistaken identities made by the characters.
review of The Comedy of Errors
by Shakespeare; adaptation by Michael Bowen
Directed by William Marlowe
SFCC Revelers Drama, Spartan Theatre
reviewed by Reed McColm; based on the March 13, 2010 performance
Reed was awfully generous here, given that he had directed the Interplayers production in February of Honky Tonk Angels, which Bowen savaged in print. Errors closed on March 14, but it's nice to hear another voice in local theater reviews.
[ photo: Reed McColm, from booksinmotion.com ]