Tuesday night we saw Comedy of Errors. We hadn’t purchased tickets for it with our original order, as we’d seen it once or twice already, and it’s not all that magical in terms of language or subject matter. However, a friend of our son’s (who is a drama production major) touted it because of the unique set (a Las Vegas-style casino) and the fact that each set of twins is played by a single actor rather than 4 different actors.
The basic plot: Syracuse and Ephesus have been at war, and laws have been promulgated in both lands that if a citizen of one is caught within the environs of the other, he will be executed. Many years earlier, a Syracusan husband and wife gave birth to a set of identical twins (both named Antipholus - sounds like one of those malaria-carrying mosquitoes, no?). They become possessed of a second set of identical twin orphans (both named Dromio), whom they adopt as servants for their own sons. A shipwreck separates this genetic jumble into father, one son and one servant, and mother, the other son, the other servant. The father’s contingent settles in Syracuse, the mother’s in Ephesus. 20-some years later, the father is trekking the world in search of the other contingent, and is captured in Syracuse and sentenced to die. His tale impresses the Duke of Ephesus, however, and he is given until sundown to come up with his ransom. Meanwhile, the father’s son and servant arrive in Syracuse, also in search of the lost brother. As you may imagine, many iterations of mistaken identity ensue between wives, husbands, masters and servants until things get sorted out at the end.
There is some great opportunity for scenery-chewing, of course, and the Antipholus characters are played by one of our favorite actors here, Ray Porter. At one point I had tears streaming down my face, I was laughing so hard. The casino-set is also quite a bit of fun, because Ephesus, despite St. Paul’s epistolary injunctions to the contrary, was known as a bastion of witchcraft and evil. They also had a bit of fun with the diction - the Ephesians spoke in a clipped, New York-style accent (the Duke of Ephesus and his guards are gotten up as mafiosi), while the Syracusans deliver their lines in a Texas-style drawl.
I’m really glad I kicked out the extra bucks for this - I wish I had it on DVD or tape.