It’s a question whether or not the Old Bard himself would enjoy The Old Globe’s Summer Shakespeare Festival production of “The Comedy of Errors,” which is actually an adaptation of the Roman play “The Twins or The Menaechmus Brothers.” Judging by the reactions of the playgoers through the night I attended, I would say yes!
This Shakespeare farce is set in 1920s New Orleans. Leaving Syracuse, Antipholus of Syracuse (Glenn Howerton) and his servant, Dromio of Syracuse (Rory O’Malley) are off on a mission. Both are identical twins who never met their brothers. Another town, another possibility!
Howerton plays both Antipholus of Syracuse and Antipholus of Ephesus. Rory O’Malley plays both Dromio of Syracuse and Dromio of Ephesus. What these characters don’t know is that their twins are in Ephesus and will soon be part of a hilarious mix up that involves the entire town.
Their first encounter results in a long story and confusion about Egeon (Patrick Kerr), a man who claims he and his twin sons were lost in a sea storm. The Duke of Ephesus (Austin Durant) informs Egeon that their law forbids merchants from Syracuse to enter Ephesus, but if he pays a $1,000 fine he can stay.
As Antipholus of Syracuse and Dromio of Syracuse browse around town, their lives become a comic adventure. Antipholus sends Dromio to deposit money at the inn they will frequent. The next time he sees Dromio (not knowing it’s not “his” Dromio) he asks about the money, Dromio says he never got any money from him. Antipholus gives him a lashing with his hat for lying.
It’s situations like this that fill the plot. Adriana (Megan Dodds), wife of Antipholus of Ephesus throws fits when her husband runs out on her. When she meets Antipholus of Syracuse she begs him to come home. He is aghast, having no clue who this woman is.
The show continues with a laugh a minute thanks to direction by Scott Ellis, a seven-time Tony Award-nominee. What ups the game is the setting on the outdoor stage. The buildings of New Orleans could have been brought in from the wild party town itself. A talented and enthusiastic ensemble marches through the street and through aisles with their horns, drums, and banjos belting out tunes such as “Tiger Rag,” and “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
New Orleans can’t be without a place welcoming the men, which gets several of the twins in trouble. One very amusing character is the courtesan (Garth Schilling) seductively singing “I Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl.”
Howerton and O’Malley are excellent as both sets of twins. The hilarious story and pleasant night breeze add up to a great evening of entertainment. I could imagine Shakespeare bellowing out laughs for this one.