Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires

The Comedy of Errors
Hartford Stage
Review by Fred Sokol | Season Schedule

Also see Fred's review of Endgame


The Cast
Photo by T. Charles Erickson
Darko Tresnjak utilizes an array of gifts to stage Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors in supremely unique fashion. This 90-minute version is wildly imaginative as its director and scenic designer (Hartford Stage's artistic leader taking on both) brings a play written in the last part of the sixteenth century to a Greek island in the mid-1960s. The locale is overwhelmingly beautiful. Maximizing space on the stage with a cast of more than 20, the performances continue through February 12th.

Influenced by Disney World and that is not all, Tresnjak creates a seascape which includes, in the background, lovely buildings inclusive of many tiny lights; and a dock with little boats, too. The action begins when a sexy courtesan (Paula Leggett Chase) makes her way from her window to center stage. Her rendition of "Never on Sunday," taken from the film and performed in Greek and English, is singular, precious, and so inviting. Two nearby musicians, Louis Tucci and Alexander Sovronsky, provide tuneful accompaniment.

Aegeon, Merchant of Syracuse (Noble Shropshire), has broken a law by appearing in Ephesus. Arrested, he is now pressed to raise money quickly to avoid a death sentence. There is immediate name confusion. Aegeon has twin sons: one is called Antipholus of Syracuse (Tyler Lansing Weaks) and he has a servant named Dromio of Syracuse (Alan Schmuckler). The other son is Antipholus of Ephesus (Ryan-James Hatanaka) whose servant is Dromio of Ephesus (Matthew Macca). The sons were separated at birth (due to a storm) and this is the first time everyone is in the same place at the same time.

The Comedy of Errors is an early Shakespeare play and, undeniably, a farce. The boys, so to speak, have much going on. Antipholus of Ephesus is married to Adriana (Jolly Abraham), who is strong and shrewish. Her sister, Luciana (Mahira Kakkar), eventually realizes her sultry nature. Dromio of Ephesus has a "connection" to Nell (Tara Heal), who is a kitchen maid; this part does get more confusing...

This Comedy of Errors abounds with shenanigans, sight gags, physically riotous humor (see the Dromios in action), zippy and zany behavior, delicious music, and it transpires within the pastel, multi-tiered setting which is a large gem. Tresnjak designates women with smarts, strength, and perception.

While the quick-paced presentation includes the known mistaken identity theme, it shines because of this director's distinctive vision. Every so often he injects glimpses of what seems like early 1960s southern California surfing and dance motif. The production gloriously boasts, fairly near its conclusion, a stirring Bollywood movement number (it brings La La Land to mind) and Peggy Hickey's choreography is a joy to behold. Throughout, Fabio Toblini's costuming is nothing short of delectable.

In the end, as one would assume, Aegeon is spared, identities are revealed, and the family comes together. Tresnjak, addressing Shakespeare, is an interpreter, director, and designer. When I questioned him as he came to Hartford Stage a number of years ago, he explained that he might take a year to fully realize a set for one of his Shakespeare productions. This time, opening a lid on a comedy and augmenting jokes with further exaggeration, he is always clever. There isn't a weak link in his cast. His decision to go with the Courtesan before anything more occurs, before anyone utters a word of text, is sensational. Sometimes, it seems as if the show's overflow is just too, too much. An observer might be looking for who will grab whom next. It is a frenzied rendering created by a man who has thought about this play's festive potential. For the most part, the revelry is, well, playfully successful.

The Comedy of Errors continues at Hartford Stage in Hartford, Connecticut, through February 12th, 2017. For tickets, call (860) 527-5151 or visit www.hartfordstage.org.


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