The 2014 Oregon Shakespeare Festival hit production “The Comedy of Mistakes” was an innovative show – sizzling with so much energy, it could have “set fire” to the in-your-face space of the Thomas Theater.
They did this by cleverly piecing together Shakespeare’s comedic premise of two crazy mixup series of twins in an entirely different time and place (with lots of great, bright songs tinged with gospel and dazzling dances) performed with spice by a brilliant , all Black OSF Ensemble (but one).
And I saw it myself the night it opened, so the rave review that follows is exactly what I wrote about this vibrant show in the May 8, 2014 edition of Urge. And now you can see a filmed version that captured an exciting, live-action performance of the original cast (and production elements) that I enjoyed so much. But first, read my original review that follows:
Screaming, naughty, brilliant and debauched “comedy of errors” at OSF!
As a member of the audience, think, if you will, how artistically difficult it must be for a decades-old theater company like the Oregon Shakespeare Festival to creatively “re-imagine” again. fresh their approach to staging one of The Bard’s most popular. comedies they’ve produced so many times before.
Then, prepare to be both pleasantly surprised and thoroughly entertained by OSF’s current and daringly inventive production of “The Comedy of Mistakes” which is set at full speed through the end of its 2014 season in the intimate Thomas Theater.
Led with creative flair by Kent Gash, the port city of Ephesus was brewed transformed into Harlemtown, New York, in the late 1920s at the “dawn of the Harlem Renaissance”. There, the exuberant demeanor of the city’s African-American residents garishly celebrates the visual and musical spirit of the Apollo Theater in Harlem.
Jo Winiarski’s stunning scenic design sets the mood with dark silhouettes of the New York City skyline surrounding the upper edges of the performance space – buildings suddenly coming to life with flashing lights and lights. vivid and pulsating signs of colorful neon lights at the start of the show. .
This is also when the actor / dance ensemble explodes in motion, filling the stage with electric, non-stop energy reminiscent of that unforgettable ‘Gotta Dance’ sequence in the classic musical ‘Singin’. In The Rain ”. But, with OSF’s all-African-American cast, the scene more vividly mirrors that of previous, groundbreaking films such as “Cabin In The Sky” and “Carmen Jones”.
Either way, choreographer Byron Easley and lighting designer Dawn Chiang skillfully created the attitude and essence of dazzling jazz in this memorable opening number – thanks in no small part to the wonderful score by composer Justin Ellington. . It also immediately captures the Cajun-flavored soul of Bourbon Street in New Orleans during RJ Foster’s Mardi Gras entry as Duke Solinus, who descends the steps sporting a top hat and extravagant son accompanied. of a marching band. (Just a fabulous example of Kara Harmon’s stunning period costumes and characters throughout the production.)
But, before the comic story of the mistaken identities caused by two pairs of twins can really begin, it all needs to be set in place by the “tragic” tale of a father – and recently arrived Louisiana merchant named Egeon (Tyrone Wilson). .
However, since Egeon is from a rival town and travel was prohibited between the two towns, he was arrested and sentenced to be executed, he tells his sad story to the Duke. He tells her that many years ago, on a sea voyage, his wife and twins (and their twins) were separated, lost at sea in a severe storm (an event clearly projected on the walls around the audience by brilliant videographer Shawn Duan.). And, Egeon, for whatever reason, decided to pick them up in Harlemtown.
Fortunately, the rest of Shakespeare’s implausible plot soon unfolds with the arrival of one of his very living twin sons and servant (Antopholus and Dromio of Louisiana), who also arrived in Harlemtown for their own research (where live their identical twins.). The two rowdy Dromios are played with over-the-top hilarity by Rodney Gardiner, and Tobie Windham does a delightful double job as Antopholus.
Of course, great crazy mass confusion occurs when each character is confused with the other. This is especially problematic for groom Antopholus when his wife, Adriana (Omoze Idehenre), confuses him with bachelor Louisiana Antopholus, especially when his “Southern twin” falls in love with his wife’s sister, Luciana (Monique Robinson).
There is also the issue of a gold chain purchased (but not paid for) and given to the Harlem courtesan (Bakesta King) which causes more misunderstood chaos, a ‘voodoo’ ceremony to rid the city of unexplained frightening events. that happen suddenly, and many more.
Performed with broad TV sitcom extravaganza by the entire cast, it’s a sneaky take on “The Jeffersons,” which climbs to the top of the board, with a Caucasian actor (a dry, deadpan turn from the wonderful Mark Murphey as a butler and a jailer). The exceptional set also includes Mildred Ruiz-Sapp, Ramiz Monsef, Franchelle Stewart Dorn, Steven Sapp. Keith LeRoyal and Jerome Preston Bates.
This deliciously silly and dazzling spectacle takes you on a hectic ride, with no intermission, for an hour and 45 minutes of pure entertainment. And I think even Shakespeare himself would have a great time at OSF’s “Comedy of Mistakes”. It’s a hoot!
I maintain this original review today. I still love this delicious production. And, thankfully, OSF is offering home audiences the opportunity to watch this entertaining show online as it begins streaming, which will begin right after OSF’s current online production airs, the brilliant “Snow in Midsummer”. of 2018, ends on Saturday.
“The Comedy of Mistakes” will begin airing on Tuesday, continuing to air online until June 26. Tickets for the shows are just $ 15, or if you want to see both (before “Snow” closes), $ 25. Tickets must be reserved and paid for in advance by going to www.osfashland.org. When you do, you will receive a link that is specific to you. You can then start watching the show at any time. While the hardware approach is definitely mature, it’s suitable for the older kids in your family. And, watching it might prove to them that regardless of what they and their peers may have heard, a Shakespeare play can actually be fun.