Ohio Shakespeare Festival's The Comedy of Errors evokes laughter with a torrent of jokes, puns, and farce within a frivolous story about the mixing up of two sets of twin brothers. Casting one actor for both Antipholus of Syracuse and Antipholus of Ephesus and one for their respective servants, the Dromios, the audience is constantly challenged to figure out who is on the stage and speaking. Yet, this “challenge” works well for the production because the audience must pay close attention to other characters’ reactions to the two Antipholuses and two Dromios to know their identity.
Ernie González's Dromio of Ephesus and Dromio of Syracuse is the highlight of this production. His performance is illustrious, luminary and physical. The colorfulness of his acting well suits the servants who help as well as challenge their abusive masters, Antipholus of Ephasus and Antipholus of Syracuse, played by Joe Pine. Pine's two Antipholuses are likable and charming, yet with a volatile and deceptive side.
The performance was at the Henry C. Bishop Stage at Greystone Hall where director Terry Burgler created a thrust stage with two-story tiring house with doors and stairs. The performers utilize the aisles to make their entrances and exits, creating imaginary spaces and distances in the city of Ephesus.
The main element of this comedy consists of colorful words, including vulgar sexual jokes, animatedly expressed by skillful actors who take advantage of the audience and its reaction. For example, when Antipholus of Syracuse and Dromio of Syracuse engage in a lengthy discussion on "baldness" and the "intelligence" of people, González chooses to address several balding audience members. The fast-paced lines are delivered by Pines and González with perfect timing, pacing, and rhythm, mesmerizing the audience.
Josy Jones plays Adriana, wife of Antipholus of Ephesus who tirelessly complains about her unhappiness. Jones and Diana Frankhauser (as Adriana’s sister Luciana) also have excellent comic pacing, which is vital in this show. Kelsey Tomlinson, a courtesan in the style of a belly dancer, serves as a contrast to Jones and Frankhauser. Jim Fippin plays the twin brother’s father Aegeon who faces his execution ordered by Duke Solinus played by Ryan Zarecki in the first scene. Karen L. Wood plays a very animated Abbess Amelia. Tess Burgler portrays Dr. Pinch, a quack doctor/exorcist hired by Adriana. Michael Knobloch (Antipholus double) and Gordon Hinchen (Dromio double) support Pine and González in the scenes in which their simultaneous presence are required, including in the last scene when the four performers, reunited, wrap up this comedy of mistaken identity. Minor Cline, Nicole Doll, Brian Duskey, Sara Katrenich, Mark Stoffer, Katie Zarecki, and Sarah Coon complete the cast.
All of the costumes, designed by Kelsey Tomlinson, have shape and texture of the Elizabethan period costume, in line with Ohio Shakespeare Festival's commitment to staging the Bard's work within the spirit of the Globe Theatre. The two Dromios are costumed in tunics, baggy pants, and fezes, suggesting the locale of the play, Ephesus, an ancient Greek city located in present-day Turkey.
The Comedy of Errors which concludes Ohio Shakespeare Festival’s 2016-17 season is its first production at the Greystone Hall’s indoor stage. For the past 16 years, Ohio Shakespeare Festival has been performing outdoors at the Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, Akron Ohio. Ohio Shakespeare Festival follows an “original theatrical practice” style that Shakespeare’s company likely used and, as expressed by Managing Director Tess Burgler, “puts the playwright’s original story at the forefront of all of their productions.” Yet, this does not mean they are void of their own innovation and creativity—on the contrary. Like the casting choice of this production, the company illuminates what is significant and vital in the Bard’s work and this vibrant production is a testament to that idea.