CHRISTOPHER – Slap-happy Shakespeare: Propeller’s ‘Comedy of Errors’

Slap-happy Shakespeare: Propeller’s ‘Comedy of Errors’All-male Shakespeare company Propeller, in town for the Istanbul Theater Festival, treated Turks and expats alike to a manic, romping “Comedy of Errors” over the weekend. It was part Three Stooges, part Rocky Horror and, all in all, a delightful surprise.

It could be hard to get your bearings, however, as the company slapped itself silly through five acts. Director Edward Hall’s Ephesus evoked a decaying barrio somewhere in the US-Mexico borderlands, suggesting political commentary that never quite crystallized.

The Antipholuses (Dan Wheeler and Joseph Chance), identical twins separated at birth whose reuniting constitutes the main action of the play, are done up like Brooklyn hipsters. The Dromios (Will Featherstone and Matthew McPherson), also twins and servants to the former pair, could have walked straight off of Phish lot.

The Courtesan (Matthew Pearson) wears sequins and Playboy bunny ears, and the Abbess (Alasdair Craig) is reimagined as a dominatrix. The costumes, in short, look like costumes — at a Halloween rave that went slumming.

Something about gentrification, maybe? I didn’t get it, but, laughing right along with the rapid-fire fat jokes and Benny Hill chases, I didn’t really care.Confusion ensues every time one twin gets mistaken for the other, setting off an escalating series of shouting matches and beatings that top out in a free-for-all involving the entire cast.

“Comedy of Errors” has plenty of slapstick, and Hall takes full aantage, deploying everything from two-finger eye-pokes (blocked, of course) to purple nurples. The gusto the cast brings to the physical comedy is winsome, but at times the language gets lost in the gags.

Lighting and sound effects stand in for emotions in the few passages where Shakespeare steers this farce out of the shallows, and this was unfortunate, especially when Antipholus of Syracuse gives his brief elegy to the life of the nomad. The pathos here — that in seeking, we often lose ourselves — would have resonated more strongly with the expats in the audience if it hadn’t been washed out in maudlin blue.

And Dominic Gerrard’s Duke Solinus, who trades, in a familiar move, the executioner’s axe for a more contemporary pistol, swaggers his way through the opening scene, doing injustice to Chris Myles’ convincing rendition of Aegeon. He’s the father of the twins, and stands, due to rather harsh reciprocity laws enacted by Syracuse and Ephesus, to lose his head at day’s end if he can’t come up with 1,000 marks — in short, he’s the only character in the play with more at stake than a reputation or a purse of coins.

The cast makes it all up with verve, though, and charmed the pants off the audience. Featherstone and McPherson were brilliant as they wisecracked their way from drubbing to drubbing.

And a quirky, whiskey-downing Arthur Wilson was surprisingly alluring in drag as Luciana, the not-quite-so-innocent sister of Adriana (James Tucker), depressive wife to the Ephesian Antipholus.This is a company that works for its applause.

No time for backstage warm-ups: The cast deploys in the aisles to welcome the audience as they file in and treats them to an almost a cappella pop medley during intermission. Their enthusiasm is contagious and, in the end, wins out over the incoherencies of design.

These are men who love Shakespeare, and they’ll make you love him too. Three-and-a-half stars out of five.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman

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