The case of mistaken identities as entertainment has been around for, well, as long as entertainment has been around. Meant to be a lose-yourself-amidst-the-silliness, it’s as familiar as watching Charlie Chaplin pratfalls, or reruns of Lucille Ball popping chocolate candy into her mouth and down her cleavage for the tenth time. We know what is about to transpire, but when it happens we laugh anyway. It’s part of the fun.
So it is with Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors,” one of his earliest and shortest plays, based on an ancient Roman comedy by Plautus (c. 245-184 B.C.). This production presented by the city of Henderson for its annual Shakespeare in the Park
This adaptation, directed by Steve Shade for the Las Vegas Shakespeare Company, happily clings to the original intent: We’re expected to overlook the obvious and laugh.
With a few exceptions, Shade and the large cast do an adequate job of making the Bard enjoyable for modern audiences.
The basic plot follows two sets of identical twins who were accidentally separated at birth. Antipholus of Syracuse and his servant, Dromio of Syracuse, after seven years of searching, end up in Ephesus, which turns out to be the home of Antipholus of Ephesus and his servant, Dromio of Ephesus.
When Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse run across the friends and families of the Ephesus twins, all kinds of antics, wild mishaps, accusations of infidelity, theft, and, finally, madness blamed on demonic possession and magic ensues.
Jesse Steccato (Antipholus) and Mueen Jahan (Dromio), as the Syracuse twins are spot on in their slapstick portrayals. We’re drawn in by the way they revel in the antics and, having been raised together, blur the line between employer and employee.
The exact opposite treatment Eli Weinberg (Antipholus) and Michael Miranda (Dromio) bring to portraying the Ephesus twins rob their scenes of much of the humor. Perhaps it’s a ploy to bring Shakespeare to the masses, an attempt to help audiences not familiar with the language keep things straight. Yet, in their scenes together, the two Dromio’s deliver in spades. With a premise so familiar and a plotline so thin, Weinberg should place more trust in the audience to get it.
Trisha Miller falters in her portrayal of Adriana. More often than not, rather than delivering the intent, she gives a sing-song cadence to the lines, falling victim to the lyrical rhyme of iambic pentameter.
In one of the best scenes of the play, Kelly Odor as Luciana has a rollicking good time avoiding the amorous overtures of the man she believes is her brother-in-law. She brings a sense of humorous horror to the obvious mutual attraction.
Collette E. Robinson as the long- lost mother, Emilia, ties things up nicely at the play’s end with the right blend of serio-comic delivery.
Despite microphone issues in a couple of the early scenes, the technical aspects were mostly fine. Many productions take liberty with Shakespeare by setting the action in modern times. However, one has to question the choice to retain time and place and then use a Tiffany bag and a can of Ready Whip as props.
The Green Valley Madrigals provide an enjoyable Greenshow prior to the main event.