He Said Boner! The Rep does well by The Comedy of Errors

He Said Boner! The Rep does well by <i>The Comedy of Errors</i>
Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Paul Mason Barnes' Mardi Gras-tinged version of The Comedy of Errors opens with a big, brassy musical introduction to all the characters that's five minutes of pure bliss. Then Egeon of Syracuse (Lenny Wolpe) steps forward to deliver a massive chunk of backstory about being separated long ago from his wife and one of their twin infant sons and about how the remaining twin set off in search of his long-lost brother, and all that glorious momentum shudders to a halt.

This is not the fault of Wolpe, who finds the perfect measure of fatigue and dolorousness in Egeon. Nor is it the fault of Shakespeare; the man liked a big speech — though Egeon's protracted tale of woe tests playgoers' patience even under the best of circumstances. The jarring tonal shift doesn't augur well for the rest of the night, but this being The Comedy of Errors, initial perceptions invariably prove false.

In the course of his peregrinations, Egeon has wandered to Ephesus, a small town outside New Orleans where Syracusans are hated so much that merely being Syracusan is a death sentence. Upon hearing his sorry tale, the Duke grants Egeon 24 hours to find someone willing to ransom him from the gallows. Tasked with saving his own neck, Egeon resumes his wandering, now stopping every soul he encounters in order to plead his case; it's a running gag that gets funnier with every telling.

Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Location Info

Map

Loretto-Hilton Center

130 Edgar Road
Webster Groves, MO 63119

Category: Performing Arts Venues

Region: Webster Groves

Details

The Comedy of Errors
Through April 8 at the Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves.
Tickets are $16 to $72.
Call 314-968-4925 or visit www.repstl.org.

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And who should wash up in Ephesus but Egeon's son Antipholus (Chris Mixon) and the lad's manservant, Dromio (Doug Scholz-Carlson)? Well aware of the Ephesians' distaste for their kind (and lest there be any doubt as to their homeland, they wear matching slickers that read "Buoys from Syracuse") the two immediately set about scheming how to get out alive. Strangely, everyone they meet welcomes them like old friends, showering them with money and gifts. We soon learn that Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse are — what are the odds? — the spitting image of Antipholus and Dromio of Ephesus (Michael Fitzpatrick and Christopher Gerson, respectively), two beloved native sons. Hilarity ensues.

Mixon's Antipholus is a bold man of action, Scholz-Carlson's Dromio a slyly intelligent wordsmith. Ditto for Fitzpatrick and Gerson, the only discernible difference being Gerson's pronounced twang. Director Barnes runs his cast mercilessly in this Repertory Theatre of St. Louis production, particularly the Dromios, who never walk when they can sprint from one scene to the next. The synchronized choreography enhances the confusion as to who's who; the two Dromios in particular perform the same series of movements in sequence from opposite sides of the stage. By Act Two it's impossible to keep one's Dromios and Antipholuses straight. But that's part of the fun.

Also part of the fun is Jack Forbes Wilson as Harry, a garrulous piano player who sits in a cupola overlooking the stage, soundtracking all the chases and fights. Harry doubles as the bordello band, backing up Shanara Gabrielle's Edith Piaf-inspired Courtesan as she emotionally shatters Antipholus of Syracuse with a song meant for his brother.

Neither Harry nor the Courtesan's song is in the Bard's script, and The Comedy of Errors has always worked fine without them. But wasn't it Shakespeare who said, "Sex and music make everything better"? No? Must've been his twin brother, then. 

 
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