Jazz lovers, comedy lovers and fun lovers unite at the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre for Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors. Expectations are high for The Old Globe production, directed by Tony nominated Scott Ellis.
Usually the audience has to be so quiet listening to every word of a Shakespearean play, but Director Scott Ellis brings the fun. This show allows the audience to be more relaxed. The 1920s New Orleans atmosphere sets the tone from the stage, to the music, to the costume design. This is Ellis’ Shakespearean debut, but he has directed musicals, comedy, drama, classics and new plays. He had three Tony Award-nominated productions in 2015 for Direction of You Can’t Take It with You, along with On the Twentieth Century and The Elephant Man. Ellis’ name also might be recognized as executive producer for the television show “Modern Family.” He chose two named actors, Glenn Howerton, from FXX comedy, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and Rory O’Malley in the original company of The Book of Mormon.
This is a very physical play for the actors. O’Malley as Dromio sweats as he runs back and forth appeasing Howerton as Antipholus and Megan Dodds as Adriana, the duped wife. Dodds is expressive in her body language as she loses her patience in the situation. But, of course, there has to be mistaken identities—it’s a Shakespearean comedy. There are two Dromios and two Antipholus’, which the squirmy, Syracusan merchant Egeon (Patrick Kerr) explains their story with his handy dandy puppets, he happens to have in his suitcase. (Egeon is shipwrecked and has lost his wife and twin boys at sea.) One of the simpler moments is one of the funniest. Howerton walks on stage with a baguette in hand.
Bourbon Street arises from the stage or maybe it’s a miniature Disneyland New Orleans Square. Scenic designer, Alexander Dodge, colors the stage with two-story French Quarter buildings in pastels in soft lighting by Philip S. Rosenberg. In the middle, on a dais, a room turns revealing Adriana with her sister, Luciana in the dining room.
Costume Designer, Linda Cho, designed last year’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona, which had bright period costumes. I will never get the image of the cod piece out of my head. Colorful characters abound in The Comedy of Errors as a palette for Cho. Many in the ensemble are dressed as street people in 1920s New Orleans. With expressive eyes, Lindsay Brill lurks in her dress suit and hat, holding a fake dog. Another female ensemble member is dressed more or less as a gypsy and dreadlocks. Many of the men are in crisp, beige suits topped with hats.
A trumpet player sets the mood as he lingers through the street. Music director, Derek Cannon, incorporates a saxophone, trombone, clarinet, bass drum and various percussive instruments that include a cowbell for a seemingly impromptu Mardi Gras. Barrett Doss has a huge gospel voice. She pretty much brings church singing one word. I think it was Amen. I don’t recall, but I was like, “Whhaaaaat?” I want to hear the choir she’s singing in. And there’s more, Garth Schilling as the Courtesan is no stranger to being a drag queen. He is known as Miss Vodka Stinger, based in New York City. From the makeup to the belly to the singing he leaves it all on the stage and he is funny. As Schilling curves his, or excuse me, her jeweled hands down to her nether regions, she sings about needing a little steam down there. The eight year old in front of me whips her head toward her dad with her mouth open. It is a very cute father daughter moment, taking his daughter to see Shakespeare. Dad explained the show here and there.
There are too many “moments” to mention, but many of them will make you want to sing, laugh and cry-laugh in The Old Globe’s production of The Comedy of Errors.