Review: The Comedy of Errors

Jordan Nicholes (l) and Tyler John Malinauskas in The Comedy of Errors
Photo by April Porterfield

By Larry Laneer
June 10, 2019

Now in its 35th season, Oklahoma Shakespeare has dropped “in the Park” from its name and returned to the park for a production of The Comedy of Errors at the Myriad Gardens Water Stage. Like they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same. As can happen at the Water Stage, the production comes off as a tedious uproar.

Shakespeare based Comedy of Errors on a work by the Roman dramatist Plautus (c. 254-184 B.C.E.). The play teems with opportunities for directors and actors to ham it up, and this production, directed by D. Lance Marsh, never misses a chance to do so. On the other hand, it may not be possible to do the play any other way. In reacting to the performance, you’re more likely to think “Oh, that’s a funny part,” rather than laugh out loud.

This is an early Shakespeare comedy, before he had honed his skills at the form. Two sets of Syracusan identical twins become separated in a shipwreck as infants and accidentally meet years later in Ephesus to the confusion of everybody. Cases of mistaken identity happen in almost every scene.

The cast has locked on to Marsh’s concept for the show. Tyler John Malinauskas and Jordan Nicholes about equal each other in scenery chewing as the Dromios. Malinauskas’s Dromio is a slightly more impudent servant, while Nicholes’s Dromio is more tractable.

Both with wispy beards, Dustin Dale Barlow and Sam Pinson play the Antipholuses, the other set of twins. Both pairs of twins wear identical costumes (by Emily Herrera), which add to the illusion of identicalness, with the Antipholuses sporting spiffy, brown-and-white wingtips.

As the sisters Adriana and Luciana, Rachel Ryan Nicholes and Rachel Necessary hang in there  amid the chaos. Allison Gregory makes a droll Doctor Pinch. As Aegeon, David Pasto gives the most sympathetic performance in the play.

The Water Stage is a fine outdoor amphitheater, but sound, or rather, noise, is always an issue there. OS uses stage microphones and three speakers which do a good job of supporting the actors’ voices without overpowering them. But Marsh, as have other OS directors, often has actors go into the audience or on a short bridge between the stage and audience, thus taking the actors off mic. That’s fine if the actors are facing you, but if they face the other way, the dialog is lost or garbled. It’s a mystery why OS directors do this. Ryan Fischer’s scenic design of Ionian stucco with its three doors recalls ancient Roman theater.

Marsh gets credit for getting on with it. He has streamlined the script and brings the show to port in under two hours. This will be OS’s only production at Water Stage this season, so if you’re chaotically inclined and don’t mind sweating a little, see it while you can.

The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
Oklahoma Shakespeare
8:00 p.m Thursdays-Saturdays, through June 29
Myriad Gardens Water Stage
301 W. Reno Ave.

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