Shakespeare’s “A Comedy of Errors” is a kind of hellzapoppin, running through the audience version of the Bard’s writings. Set in a place called Ephesus, designed to look very much like New Orleans in 1936, this “Comedy” has a definite Olsen and Johnson feel & energy. It is orchestrated (literally) mayhem of the merry variety.
This freewheeling story gets off to a slower start than it should. After a Peppy Miller type musical opening on Scenic Designer Erik Paulson’s magnificent wrought-iron set, the character of an old man (played to perfection by Lenny Wolpe) searching for his family comes center stage and delivers a too-long verbal chronicle of his life. Later in the show, he tries to retell the story several times, getting cutoff at the start every time. It’s funny each time it happens because it is so typical of the kind of person he plays. And to Wolpe’s credit, he even manages to evoke some almost tender moments amidst all the laughs.
One of the real strengths of this show is how it gives all the primary players in the very large cast lots of comedy shtick. They mimic, use double-takes and engage lost of physical comedy. They become identified by their unique comic personalities.
“The Comedy of Errors” has a plot about almost everything. Twins that don’t know they are, debts, cultural clashes, marital confusion and a spinster on the hunt for a man are just part of the evening’s adventures.
Tina Fabrique as a character called the Abbess musically centers the start and ending of the show. The cast of 23 all have almost equal time to shine on stage, and they do. There are some references to classic movie characters in a number in Act II that are hilarious.
I wished the first act of this production were as energizing as the second, but when the curtain calls come and “When the Saints Go Marching In’ has the audience standing in applause, you’ll be very glad you’re part of the celebration.