Thursday, October 2, 2008

OSF: A Comedy of Errors

Weisenheimer and his sweetie took the backstage tour at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival the morning before seeing the festival's production of The Comedy of Errors. Looking at the nearly completed set our tour guide said, "With all of those stairs, you know it's going to be a comedy. Chase scenes are guaranteed." It's not often that a gigantic noose suspended from a 20-foot frame is the focal point of the staging of a comedy. Maybe they were planning some gallows humor.

Penny Metropulos staged and directed her own adaptation of The Comedy of Errors as a musical western, sort of an Oklahoma-meets-Mel-Brooks-concept. The zany western put Weisenheimer immediately in mind of Blazing Saddles, and there was a nod to Young Frankenstein as well: whenever a character noted that, "It's the law," a horse would neigh in the background. Frau Blucher would have been proud.

The Bard wasn't totally lost in all of of this. You still had two sets of separated-at-birth twins running around constantly being confused one for the other, in no small part because they also have twin names. But the actors looked very much alike and were costumed similarly, making them much more twin-like than we often see when Shakespeare uses this device. And, it seemed most everyone in the cast owed someone else money or was in some sort of trouble with the law. (Neiiiighhhh.)

Still, Metropulos had to bend the Bard quite a bit to fit The Comedy of Errors into "a town west of the Pecos." Several character names were changed. Solinus became Duke, the Sheriff; Angelo the Goldsmith was changed to The Colonel; and The Merchant became a Chinese salesman named Li Wei, making me wonder how much leeway we should give to mess around with the text.

Among all the hilarity Weisenheimer singles out Miriam A. Laube for her performance as Adriana, wife to one of the Antipholuses. On top of being spunky and energetic on stage, Laube can really belt out a tune. She's fast becoming a favorite actress of the company. She was marvelous as Rosalind in As You Like It during the 2007 season here.

While all of this likely made the Shakespeare purists a little grumpy, the show was a great, fun romp and an entertaining evening on a beautiful, pleasant night outdoors at OSF's Elizabethan Stage.

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