Posts Tagged ‘Comedy of Errors’

Review – Comedy of Errors – National Theatre

December 4, 2011

It’s been over a week since I’ve seen this show and I’m having a hard time writing up my review. That tends to happen with shows that I’m not passionate about, and that’s definitely the case for the National’s current production of Comedy of Errors. The play was really fresh in my mind thanks to seeing Propeller’s “pocket” version of it in September; this production showed to me that most of the flaws of this show come right down to the script. While there are some momemts I enjoyed (such as Dromio of Syracuse’s description of maid Luce), the comedy seems to turn far too much on just how funny it is to beat up servants. I found this offensive, nearly as bad to my 21st century sensibilities as Taming of the Shrew. Anyway …

The National has gone for a non-typical cast by creating Egeon (merchant of Syracuse, Joseph Mydell) and his wife (played by Pamela Nomvete) as black people, thus the two sets of twins, their sons Antiopholus (one of Syracuse, Lenny Henry, the other of Ephesus, Chris Jarman) and their respective servants Dromio (one of Syracuse, Lucian Msamati, one of Ephesus, Daniel Poyser) are also black. This allows them to add a lot of flavor to the production, sort of a Caribbean touch, that wouldn’t have been there otherwise; but what I really liked about it is that it gave a bunch of folks I probably never would have seen on stage together a chance to get out there and really show their chops. And they were great! Both Antipholus (Antipholi?) really hammed up the gags, and the Dromio’s were suitably comic and downtrodden and goofy. However … I was just waiting for the Dromio’s to slap the Antipholi for their ridiculous behavior and say, “I am a man, and you are not to treat me like a dog. I quit. Go find your own damned rope.” But it never happened. So yes, there were some mistaken identities, and the cast was all a top notch pile such as one will find at the National, and the set was nicely designed … but in the end I just didn’t really care that much. A fine evening and one that I forgot almost as soon as the door had shut behind me. Perhaps I’ll get to see them all reunited some day in a much better play than this one.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Friday, November 25th, 2011. It’s booking through April 2012.)

Review – Pocket Comedy “Comedy of Errors” – Propeller at Hampstead Theater

September 28, 2011

After seeing the amazing Richard the Third that Propeller did this summer at the Hampstead Theater, I’ve been kicking myself for not making it to Comedy of Errors, the other half of their dual bill season. I was so impressed by R3 that I considered trying to see C of E somewhere on the tail end of the tour but just couldn’t make it work (financially or schedulewise). However, it appeared the theater gods were going to smile on me as Propeller returned just a few months later with a “Pocket Comedy” version of Comedy of Errors, the whole play in one hour (and once again at Hampstead Theater).

However, on looking at it, the schedule was a bit strange and unworkable. Shows at one P.M.? On a weekeday? And further shows at TEN A.M.? Just what in the world was this about? Don’t tell me it was … aimed for the kiddie audience?

Alas, so it was, a house full of eight and twelve year olds who, while warned about use of cellphones, had no qualms about crackling candy, talking to each other fairly loudly (“BUT THEY JUST MET. HOW CAN THEY BE GETTING MARRIED?”), and putting their feet on the backs of the chairs in front of them (and let’s not mention the hysterical nervous laughter over scenes given gay overtones by the same-gender casting). I’m afraid this meant that I missed many lines (and some meaning) during the show. I also found myself, in this audience, uncomfortable with the over-acted, sexually oriented jokes, such as when a crack was made about marital problems (and the items each person carried drooped) and again later when a line about trimming someone’s beard was accompanied by actors mimed scissoring their crotches.

We did get through most of the salient plot points in this sixty minutes Shakesaganza, but while there was a lot of buffoonery and slapstick, to be honest I just never really got all that into it. I wanted genius, I wanted my world to be turned upside down, I didn’t really want Curly Larry and Moe’s laffs-a-minute classical theater. The performers did a great job of keeping their characters straight (given that they were all at a minimum double-cast), but … even in his comedies I think Shakespeare goes just a little bit deeper than this. Maybe I wanted too much, maybe my expectations were too high, but for me it just didn’t deliver. I’ll hope that some day I can catch Propeller’s full-length version of this show, but I have to report that this stripped-back performance, while adequate, was entirely missable.

(This review is for a performance that took place Monday, September 26th, 2011. It continues at Hampstead Theater through October 1st.)