The Comedy of Errors | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Comedy of Errors

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The Comedy of Errors, First Folio Shakespeare Festival. It's not clear why this production of Shakespeare's comedy is so leaden. Maybe it's too realistic, with the two sets of twins becoming genuinely annoyed rather than comically enraged at being mistaken for one another. Or maybe it's not realistic enough, failing to establish strong relationships between master and man or suitor and ingenue. For whatever reason, despite the best efforts of the well-cast and well-versed actors, and Christopher Jensen's clever set bristling with slammable doors and windows, and even some fine physical moments provided by movement director Michael Goldberg (one twin is walked up the wall and held suspended over the stage), Alison C. Vesely's staging just lies there.

The production's strongest moment is also a harbinger of its weaknesses: during the exposition, Vesely stages a comically illustrative dumb show complete with blue-cloth wave, cardboard boat breaking in half, and twin bundles Velcroed to the mast. Funny as the scene is, the impulse to overexplain--we'll give you pictures in case you don't get the words--runs all the way through the show. With every joke delivered verrry slowwwly so we can keep up, we're lulled to sleep instead of being swept along. The uncredited sound design is so bad that when the actors turn their heads the tramping of their feet overwhelms whatever they're saying and they become inaudible in First Folio's outdoor space.

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