If you ask me…

- Tom Holehan

A Comedy of Errors

TDarko Tresnjak continues to be our most cinematic of stage directors. As Hartford Stage’s current Artistic Director, his visual sense is on keen display once again with the current production of Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors”. The Tony Award winning director is also the scenic designer for this particular production and not since the theatre’s jaw-dropping “Rear Window” last season, have we been treated to such a visual delight in Hartford.

Set on a Greek island in 1965, this production of “Errors” takes its inspiration from several films of the period. It begins with a sultry Paula Leggett Chase doing her best Melina Mercouri impression singing “Never on Sunday”. It’s a unique musical opening for what turns out to be an anything-goes take on the Bard’s early comedy with music continuing to be a driving force throughout this 90-minute romp. “A Comedy of Errors” is basically a stepchild to Shakespeare’s far more accomplished “Twelfth Night” with a plot that may sound familiar. At the beginning of the play we learn that two sets of twins are separated and both end up on an island where one is married to a woman who mistakes the newly arrived twin for her husband and, well, you know. Complications, as they say, ensue. No, in this version they actually run rampant and spread like wild fire. It’s a frantic ride.

Tresnjak has assembled a mostly youthful cast who gleefully make up in energy and stamina what they may lack in acting chops and diction. Best among the company are old pros like the aforementioned Ms. Chase, who plays a friendly courtesan and Noble Shropshire, playing the long-suffering father of the lost twins. Michael Elich is also memorable doing double-duty as the Duke of Ephesus and the magical Dr. Pinch. The two sets of twins, played by Alan Schmuckler, Matthew Macca, Tyler Lansing Weaks and Ryan-James Hatanaka, really do resemble each other enough to temporarily fool the eye and altogether account for most of the energy burned off during the show.

Tresnjak’s brilliant candy-colored island setting includes a pair of boats docked stage center and a tiered backdrop of cottages with working windmills dotting the horizon. It’s a glorious sight and he is matched with an expert design staff that includes costumer Fabio Toblini, making the most of the 1960s period and Matthew Richards, offering a shimmering lighting design that highlights the beautiful set to its best advantage. Onstage musicians Louis Tucci and Alexander Sovronski’s contribution to the proceedings cannot be overstated while choreographer Peggy Hickey’s Bollywood style production number nearly stops the show.

I have to confess that by the 70-minute mark I was growing a little weary of the supreme silliness and antic proceedings of the whole endeavor, but “The Comedy of Errors” isn’t “Hamlet”. It’s not even “Much Ado About Nothing”. Tresnjak’s approach may be just the right one for this particular comedy and there’s no doubt his audience is with him every step of the way.

“The Comedy of Errors” continues at Hartford Stage through February 12. For further information call the theatre box office at: 860.527.5151 or visit: www.hartfordstage.org.

Tom Holehan is one of the original founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: tholehan@yahoo.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.

 

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