THE COMEDY OF ERRORS, Shakespeare's Motley Crew, at the Theatre Building. Spell "bard" backward and you have a pretty good idea what most productions of Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors are like. A highbrow collection of fart jokes and fat jokes shoved together with tumbling runs and juggling acts, The Comedy of Errors has resisted the attempts of everybody from Roger Daltrey to the Flying Karamazov Brothers to inject it with life.
But Shakespeare's Motley Crew, under the direction of Robert Scogin and Michael Barto, have done the impossible: focusing their attention on language and character instead of slapstick and athleticism, they've revived this seemingly moribund play. Set in a fancifully designed locale reminiscent of something out of The Arabian Nights, the production turns this comedy of mistaken identity into a witty, fantastic exploration of the tragic beauty of romance, the absurdity of rivalry, and the importance of family, with echoes of superior works such as A Midsummer Night's Dream, Romeo and Juliet, and King Lear.
Despite the overdone stage business in the already long exposition, a drawn-out conclusion, and some wretched overplaying in a couple of the minor roles, this energetic production is superbly acted and directed. The actors gleefully confuse their audience; the twisting and turning of the plot, usually so irritating as we wait for the characters to figure out who's who, confuse yet excite even the most jaded audience members. In short, this production turned a play I never really wanted to see again into one I'd be perfectly happy to sit through again next week. OK, next month.