The Comedy of Errors | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Comedy of Errors 

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The Comedy of Errors, Greasy Joan & Company, at the Athenaeum Theatre. Unfettered by social commentary or obscure wit, Shakespeare's least complicated comedy scampers through the story of two sets of twins separated at birth, servants named Dromio (Ron Rains and Aaron Cedolia) and masters named Antipholus (Rom Barkhordar and Karm Kerwell). When they unknowingly cross paths, a frenzy of mistaken identities and misunderstandings results.

It's a simple premise but not necessarily easy to pull off: the show's one joke has to be sustained for almost two hours. By setting this production in contemporary Italy (the show is billed as "commedia dell'Mafioso"), director Joel Jahnke increases exponentially the comedic and visual possibilities, from Martin Andrew's rococo-meets-Magritte scenic design to the pastel-striped updos and primary color blasts of Tisha Jahnke's costumes. Add actors of all shapes, sizes, and vocal textures and you get a production that's decadently, deliciously rich.

Despite all the slapstick, the cast captures the play's emotional underpinnings (particularly Robert Maher as Egeon, the father imprisoned while searching for his missing sons). The two Antipholuses could be better distinguished, however. Considering that the script allows for quite disparate personalities, the two appear a bit too identical despite Kerwell's ba-da-boom swagger.

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