Streaming Through June 26: https://www.osfashland.org/shows-on-o
Set in the 1920s (inspired), with one set of twins from Louisiana (aka Ephesus) and one from Harlem (aka Syracuse), this iteration of Shakespeare’s mistaken identity play takes full advantage of the period. Cool, evocative music by Justin Ellington – with a nod to his distant relative and Cab Callaway; terrific costumes by Kara Harmon – accurate, good looking and fun; and an open-house set by Jo Winiarski that pays homage to The Cotton Club, The Savoy, and Jazz Age graphics, elicit anticipation.
The Tale: Twenty-five years ago, the merchant Egeon was separated from his wife and one twin son in a shipwreck. Convinced they didn’t drown, he and the surviving son split up to search for their loved ones. Egeon has been arrested in Harlem for disregarding a treaty and traveling between two rival cities. He has no idea his boy Antipholus (of Louisiana) has also arrived in the city.
In fact, Antipholus of Louisiana’s twin, now Antipholus of Harlem lives in a fine New York house shared with Adriana and her sister, Luciana. (It’s more exhausting in type than live.) To complicate things further (hear Shakespeare snicker) the twin Antipholuses have twin servants in Dromio and his brother. Needless to say, each brother is mistaken for the other as is each servant.
Adriana drags the southern Antipholus home assuming he’s her husband, whereupon he promptly falls in love with Luciana – who’s naturally appalled. There’s a mix up with a gold necklace intended for Adriana which, sold, could get the twins’ father released from prison, and both servants suffer their masters wrath for seeming incompetent. This is the short version. Eventually everything is revealed by the Abbess. Don’t ask.
Southern accents are difficult with Shakespearean syntax. The first few players on stage are not quite intelligible. After that, it’s smooth sailing, though some actors, as always, are better than others with the Bard.
Until they face off, Antipholus of both Harlem and Louisiana are played by Tobe Windham with appealingly expansive reactions and just a tad of vernacular. The Dromios are enacted by Rodney Gardiner who has infectious spirit and moves like Charlie Chaplin. Both actors handle Shakespeare conversationally. Both have a vaudevillian sense of timing, bouncing off one another (sometimes literally) with agility and panache. They look like they’re having fun. We feel it.
On the one hand, Omoze Idehenre (Adriana) sticks to the bard’s line cuts instead of making dialogue feel natural, on the other hand, anything emotionally fraught and physical – perhaps opportunity for less self-consciousness – brings out the best in the actress. Minique Robinson’s Luciana, on the other hand, does nicely with Shakespeare, but remains a bit stiff in this free-for-all staging.
This is a wonderfully physical production. Choreographer Byron Easley and Director Kent Gash pepper the story with great visual moments: Dromio’s draping himself on a banister – sliding down arm first – fisticuffs, coercion, chases, a Marx Brothers-like moment with four characters in a line each grasping an appendage of the one in front in order to hold him back, a finale that features exuberant dancing…
Gash uses his staging area fully without an unmotivated moment. His thespians play broad but not over the top, spotlighting various levels of exasperation and confusion. Everything flows. Music is beautifully integrated.
Photos by Jenny Graham Courtesy of the Production
Opening Photo: Rodney Gardiner and Company
Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s “Comedy of Errors”
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed for the Stage by Kent Gash
Choreographed by Byron Easley
Dawn Chiang- Lighting Design
Shawn Duan- Projection Design
Excellent Video and Sound Recording by Richard Stucker