The Comedy of Errors
At The Hartford Stage
50 Church Street
Directed by Darko Tresnjak
Through February 12th
Reviewed by Bobby Franklin
Returning home after viewing the Saturday matinee performance of the Hartford Stage production of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors I wanted to immediately sit down and write my review. There was one problem however, I could not stop laughing long enough to focus on my keyboard.
Director Darko Tresnjak has taken one of the Bard’s earliest plays and set it in 1965 Greece while adding music and dance to it. From the opening when Paula Leggett Chase steps out and sings a sexy and sultry Never On A Sunday in the best tradition of Melina Mercouri, I knew this was going to be something very special.
The set, which was designed by Darko, is breathtaking. Save your money on a ticket to Greece, you are there when you step into the theater. The colors are vibrant, with boats docked at the foot of the stage, the Phoenix and the Priory rising behind it and the Greek countryside as a backdrop is something to behold.
It is the Greece of Topkapi and Zorba.
But what would Greece be without music and dance? Drawing on original songs from the period and using onstage musicians playing on a bouzouki and an accordion for much of it, (some of the music is piped in and also great), the audience becomes a part of the experience. Throw in some moussaka and baklava for good measure.
Now top this off with Shakespeare’s madcap story about two sets of twins and the mixups that ensue along with an outstanding cast and you have one of the best plays on stage so far this season. Sprinkle some Marx Brothers flavored comedy on top and the laughter never stops. How often do you get to see a Shakespeare play with scuba divers, surfboards, beachballs, rubber chickens, and a human battering ram? All this while retaining the original language and story. And, all taking place within a 24 hour period.
Trying to chose a particular moment or actor to praise is too difficult in such a fine production. Everyone is just wonderful and spot on. Seeing so many actors staying in synch while so many different and crazy things are occurring is marvelous. This production is fast paced, constantly funny, musically delightful, and filled with wonderful dance numbers. It is a joy to watch all of them perform. The lighting and choreography are up to the usual high standards of the Hartford.
When someone asks me to pick a Shakespeare play for their first time experience, I don’t suggest The Comedy of Errors. It is funny but not with the depth of his later work. However, after seeing this production I can recommend it without any reservations. If you
have stayed away from Shakespeare because you thought he wrote in another language, or if you are a lifetime Bardologist, you owe it to yourself to make the trip to the Hartford Stage. If I lived closer I would see it again, and again.
Darko Tresnjak and the Hartford Stage have never disappointed me with their Shakespeare productions. There are many excellent companies in New England performing these works, but The Hartford Stage ranks at the top.
After attending a performance I guarantee you will leave the theater with tears of laughter streaming from your face, the salt of the Mediterranean in your nose, a hunger for some moussaka, and an urge to cry out, “Zorba, teach me to dance!”