Tahoe Shakespeare review: ‘Comedy of Errors’ brings waves of laughter
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Performances of “The Comedy of Errors” run through Aug. 21 at Sand Harbor State Park, alternating with “Forever Plaid,” the festival’s other live performance this summer. Visit laketahoeshakespeare.com to learn more about the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival.
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Admittedly, I had never seen a Shakespeare play before.
Sure, I loosely studied the famous playwright in high school English many moons ago, and on several occasions, when faced with a dilemma, have bellowed out, “To (tough decision), or not to (tough decision),” in a wry, dramatic cry.
But, full disclosure: The last time I watched a Shakespeare production, a pre-“I’m the king of the world” Leonardo DiCaprio was heavily involved, playing “Romeo” to Claire Danes’ “Juliet” in the 1996 film “Romeo + Juliet.”
In other words, a Shakespeare scholar I am not.
And so as I nestle into my chair for the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival’s production of “The Comedy of Errors” on a clear Tuesday night at Sand Harbor State Park, I feel a twinge of fear that I’ll be doing more head scratching than knee slapping throughout the performance.
Boy, was I wrong.
From the opening scene — a fast-paced choreographed samba dance number that (hilariously) morphs into slow-motion slapstick action — I’m transfixed.
The animated expressions, the screaming loud colors and costumes calling to mind a carnival, the energy cranked to 11 — all of it captivates the eyes and pulls you by the collar into a modernized Shakespeare world, tightening its grip with each set piece.
The “Comedy of Errors” tells the story of two sets of identical twins that were separated at birth during a shipwreck. When Antipholus of Syracuse and his servant, Dromio, arrive in Ephesus, which turns out to be the home of their twin brothers, Antipholus and Dromio of Ephesus, comedy and chaos ensues.
The sidesplitting string of mishaps based on mistaken identities leads to everything from wrongful arrests and beatings to false accusations of infidelity and theft.
Perhaps the funniest result of the twins’ confusion is when the wife of Antipholus of Ephesus repeatedly attempts — and comically fails — to seduce Antipholus of Syracuse, who she mistakes for her husband.
This sequence crests with the action freezing while Adriana is provocatively hugged up behind Antipholus of Syracuse, who’s nervously slouched in a chair. Here, with the rest of the characters frozen still, Antipholus of Syracuse, wildly confused by the suggestive woman claiming to be his wife, slinks limbo-like out of the action and, slumped on his knees, yells out to himself and the audience, “Am I in earth, in heaven, or in hell!?” before sliding back into the chair, snapping the scene back to life.
Waves of laughter rippled through the Tahoe crowd.
While the acting across the board was phenomenal, I have to make special mention of the actor playing Antipholus of Syracuse, Jeffrey C. Hawkins. Jim Carrey-like, with rubbery facial expressions and a knack for physical comedy, Hawkins stole nearly every scene he entered.
Triggering one of the biggest laughs of the night, Hawkins’ Antipholus clicks on a transistor radio — a device used to transition scenes with lively samba music — and proceeds to, as if possessed by the exotic sounds, shake his hips fiercely in an Ed Grimley-esque dance.
This is not to say there weren’t other standout performances. Jeb Burris and Josh Odsess-Rubin, who play Dromio of Ephesus and Dromio of Syracuse, respectively, flexed unparalleled comedic timing as the Antipholus twins’ knucklehead sidekicks. And Jonathan Dryud shined as Antipholus of Ephesus with an overconfident strut and fiery temper — a stark contrast to his sanguine twin brother.
There was so much more to marvel at throughout the show. Erin Partin as Adriana showcases hilariously impassioned sassiness seen only on reality TV; Lee Ernst as Egeon displays an earnest vulnerability that tugs at the heartstrings; and Heidi Dippold as Emilia, the Antipholuses’ mother, commands the stage with a riveting performance in the climatic final scene.
Simply put, even if your last brush with Shakespeare material is 20 years old, seeing “The Comedy of Errors” at the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival is an opportunity not to be missed.