CHAUTAUQUA - Shakespeare may be turning in his grave as a result of the Chautauqua Theater Company's production of "The Comedy of Errors," but if he is, he's "rolling in the aisles" with laughter.
The show is funny. Hilarious. The laughter from the audience was so loud it was sometimes necessary to strain to hear the next line, although everything was spoken clearly and effectively.
Director Andrew Borba has brilliantly set one of the Bard's earliest and simplest plays in a carnival. The characters have each become a ringmaster, a clown, a lion tamer, a bearded lady, a mermaid, and more. Every member of this year's conservatory artists was part of the production, and Borba has called upon them to play numerous instruments, to sing, to dance, and to do movement ranging from advanced acrobatics to a duel with swordfish. They've done all of those things very well.
The plot concerns two pairs of identical twins. One pair is made up of young noblemen, and the other is made up of servants, born the same day as their masters, and both members of each pair have been given the same name. We are told that the twins were in a shipwreck, and one nobleman and one servant have ended up in separate cities, all thinking the others have drowned. One day one set of men comes to the city where the other set is living, unknown to them.
People call them by their names. A woman claims the visiting nobleman for her husband. A jeweler claims that the visiting noble owes him money for a gold chain, when it was the resident noble who ordered the jewelry. The errors compound upon one another as one servant is beaten for failing to do errands which had been assigned to his unknown brother, etc.
The set, designed by Tom Buderwitz, the costumes of Angela Calin, and the lighting of Charlie Morrison created the perfect atmosphere to make this a hilarious romp. Steven Cahill's sound design made everything clear to the ear, except when audience members were screaming with laughter.
Special praise to Jacob Dresch and Mary Wiseman who played the twin servants. Neither twin in either pair looked like his - or her - brother, but they were dressed alike, and once we bought the convention, it didn't matter.
Ryan Williams French and Anthony Goes were dignified as the put-upon noble brothers, which is necessary for the indignities heaped upon them to be funny. Jess Milewicz was strong and effective as the local noble's wife, dumbfounded when the man who looks exactly like her husband and has the same name, claims never to have met her.
Mallory Portnoy was both seductive and funny as a mermaid who needed to be sprayed constantly with water by various characters.
I wish I had space to spell out the many contributions of each and every member of the company. Suffice it to say that when word of this production begins to circulate, the tickets will vanish into eager hands, so if you can make it out to a performance, before Aug. 16, when it ends, I enthusiastically encourage you to do so.