Most of Shakespeare’s comedies actually contain some pretty serious stuff. That whole pound of flesh thing in “Merchant of Venice” is pretty intense when you think about it. “Comedy of Errors” is probably the lightest and most farcical of them and even it begins with a man about to be executed.
That man is the father of a set of identical twins (again with the twins, Will?) who have led separate lives because they, along with two identical twin servants, were separated at birth by a shipwreck. (Again with the shipwrecks, Will?)
Each set of separated babies is named Antipholus and Dromio, but one pair grows up in Ephesius, the other in Syracuse. Naturally, when the Syracuse pair (Joe Bianco and Michael Coale) visits Ephesius, the proverbial wackiness begins to ensue.
As well as being the lightest of Shakespeare’s comedies, it’s also one of the bawdiest, featuring fart jokes, a lengthy description of a woman’s anatomy and a seductive courtesan (Vanessa Hughes).
Director Christopher Marino’s production for Piccolo Theatre drapes the proceedings in Commedia Dell’Arte costumes and sets, and has a house band punctuate the occasional monologue with music. These are lively enhancements but the delivery of the dialogue is mostly straightforward and traditional.
The performances here are all very sharp and funny with particular standouts being Berner Taylor as Adriana, the jealous and exacting (“shrewish” being the term in Shakespeare’s day) wife of the Ephesian Antipholus and the two Dromios (Coale and Nick Amdor) who poignantly must each endure a whole series of beatings over mistaken identity shenanigans.
It’s funny because they’re slaves.
All in all, it’s an intelligent and gleeful production of a very funny classic.