'Comedy' is sheer entertainment

Where there's a Will, there's a way. We mean Shakespeare, of course, and the current production of "The Comedy of Errors" on Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Elizabethan stage. Director Penny Metropulos says: "I like to imagine that if Shakespeare had heard of the Wild West, he might have set a play or two there himself." She certainly has the courage of her convictions, because her adroit adaptation is mighty fine and moves the play along in what amounts to a rootin', tootin,' pistol-shootin,' ripsnortin' extravaganza.

"The wonderful absurdity of two sets of identical twins," as Harold Bloom calls it, involves Egeon (Michael J. Hume), a merchant of Syracuse, and his twin sons separated after birth, Antipholus (Mark Bedard) and Antipholus of Syracuse (Jeremy Peter Johnson). Each has an attendant or sidekick named Dromio, who themselves are twins (Tasso Feldman and John Tufts respectively) and never meet until at play's end when Feldman says to Tufts, in a sublime moment: "We came into the world like brother and brother; and now let's go hand in hand, not one before another."

Metropulos makes music an integral part of her production, and so it is that Sterling Tinsley &

he composed the music for last year's big hit, "Tracy's Tiger" &

is once again on board, with lyrics by Metropulos, Tinsley, and Linda Alper. An itinerant troubadour (Ren&

233; Millan) beguiles us with guitar and passionate song, a prelude to the fast and furious action about to burst upon the scene. There is an upright piano on the set at which composer Tinsley plays, with the other musicians more or less concealed behind him &

Bruce McKern (bass), Crystal Reeves (fiddle, mandolin), Frank Sullivan (guitar, banjo, mandolin pedal steel, and dobro.

The setting of the play is west of the Pecos in Texas, specifically in the Shady Pine Saloon, whose proprietress is Emilia (Linda Alper), wife of Egeon and mother of the Antipholus twins (information just to thicken the plot!)

Michael Ganio captures the essence of the saloon by ingenious use of wooden platforms and appurtenances, western-style saloon doors, stairs, and an ominous noose. Atop at the back is a gambling den. Much of the comedy is necessarily physical, particularly with the sorely abused Dromios who take great pride in their bowlers, frequently dusting them off. The costume designer, Paul Tazewell, provides the cast with authentic and colorful western wear.

I think Metropulos has been very clever in adapting the characters &

for instance, the Chinese merchant (Cristofer Jean) who doles out some telling notes such as are found in fortune cookies; Nell (Todd Bjurstrom), the cook to Adriana (Miriam A. Laube), wife to Antipholus, that is a Dame right out of English panto, and gross at that, with whom Dromio (Tufts) is lucklessly saddled; and Doctor Antonio Pitch (Armando Duran), a snake-oil salesman advertising Elixir for ladies and gents. In the original, he is a schoolmaster.

When the frantics begin &

if I may coin a word &

there are scurrying figures everywhere, rough and tumble, and knockabout. It mounts to a hectic and hilarious pandemonium, with never a trip in the tempo. Metropulos isn't satisfied; there must be more. So how about a stampede?

"The Comedy of Errors" is sheer entertainment. It plays through October 12, the last day of the outdoor season.

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