Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

January 26, 2017

The Comedy of Errors

Hartford Stage, Hartford, CT
through February 12, 2017
by Shera Cohen

I just don’t “get” Shakespeare, says any random person.

Wrong, says I.

Hartford Stage has presented Shakespeare’s plays for over 40 years. Trust me, they “got it,” and so will you. Set aside all worries, particularly about the language. It’s fine if you don’t comprehend it all – the essence is there, not to mention that it is spoken in beautiful Elizabethan poetry.
As with many of Shakespeare’s comedies, “Errors” includes the standard elements: mistaken identity, physical humor, malaprops, fast farce comings and goings, running up and down stairs, and oftentimes a rubber chicken.

Tyler Lansing Weaks & Mahira Kakkar  
Set in a 1950’s Greek island, the piece is a combination of “Zorba the Greek,” “Beach Blanket Bingo,” Syn’s K-pop, and Bollywood. How can a full-length Shakespearean play (they are usually long) be jammed into a 90-minute one-act, while at the same time adding music and dance? Yet, in the end, “Errors” is one of the Bard’s best and most popular plays.

At the crux of the plot are two Antipholuses and two Dromios –  twin babies separated aboard ship during a cruel storm, portrayed here byy Adora Baby Dolls. Jump ahead many years, and it’s no spoiler alert that the townsfolk confuse the two pair, and they even confuse each other. However, one Antipholus is married, the other not. The story unfolds. Actors Ryan-James Hatanaka and Tyler Lansing Weaks do not look alike, only similar. Setting the nitpicking aside, it is important that the already cued-in audience see the identity mix-up. The same holds true for the Dromios, Alan Schumackler and Matthew Macca, as they bumble around, take pratfalls, and get the most laughs. Ancillary characters include an aging prostitute (Paula Leggett Chase gives “Never on Sunday” a sweet touch), the scullery made (Tara Heal in full body padding resembling 400 lbs. is an unbelievably skilled gymnast), and old and tottering Aegeon (Noble Shropshire, a regular standout in the Pioneer Valley). Ever present are Louis Tucci and Alenxander Sovronsky on mandolin or guitar, with double duty as sound effects men.

“Errors” is presented in Technicolor, vivid shades of the rainbow in its Greek setting complete with dock, village, and house of ill repute. Costumes are bold and flashy, colors straight out of a crayon box.

Each year, Hartford Stage sets its own bar so high that it seems too difficult to outshine their previously mounted Shakespeare play. Director Darko Tresnjak has more than successfully done that.