SALT LAKE CITY— Have you ever heard a story about twins who were separated early in life? And were they thrilled to be reunited as adults? It’s a popular story: I’ve seen in on the news, in movies—and of course on Sister Sister! One of the first tellings of this lost twin story was William Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors; but when his twins finally arrive in the same town, it’s a bucketful of mess, and Salt Lake Shakespeare has done a great job with it.
In Shakepeare’s tale, a family is split apart by a terrible storm at sea. The father ends up in Syracuse with one son and one servant boy, while the mother thinks she is alone in Ephesus when in reality the other son and other servant boy reside in her town. (I’m not sure how or why, but both boys are named Antipholus and both servants are named Dromio.) For some reason, the father gets arrested in Ephesus and the Syracusean branch of the family comes to find him. Thus begins the game of mistaken identities.
Antipholus of Syracuse was played by Aaron Kramer. He was a tall charming character and I felt very included in his plans and persuits, since many of his lines were delivered to the audience. Kramer seemed to carry the plot for a big chunk of the show, and I think he navigated it well. His Ephesian twin (Ryon Sharette) was dealt the more frustrated, angry Antipholus role; he did a great job keeping it watchable and helping me feel his confusion. Poor Antipholus E. is in the dark about this twin who has turned his life upside down; things were going so well for him before.
The Ephesian Antipholus’s marriage wasn’t doing so hot, though. His wife Adriana (Mara Lefler) was in a panic about her absentee husband long before she ran into his twin. In her perfect enunciation, Lefler presents the ping-pong of emotions a woman feels in a deteriorating relationship. She talks so much that it is essential to add variety, and I think she did so wonderfully. Adriana expresses her worries to her sister Luciana, played by Chelsie Cravens. And Cravens is a fierce defender of Lefler. My favorite scene of hers is when Antipholus of Syracuse confesses his love to her, while she believes him to be her brother-in-law. The reactions on her face, in her words, and with her movements communicated such a range of feelings; I couldn’t help but adore her as well.
Gage Williams created a beautiful set. I was impressed by the exact shading on the pillars, the painted bricks, and the detailed cutouts. Generally, I don’t think people take the time to build a really nice set unless they believe in the show they’re putting on; Salt Lake Shakespeare is proud of this show, and they should be. The scenes with Luciana and Adriana had me wishing for more levels, though, like a place to sit. It also would have added visual interest if director Hugh Hanson had utilized the full depth of the stage. The costumes by Amanda Reiser were great for the whole cast. Each outfit was detailed and colorful; my favorite piece of clothing was Luciana’s giant genie pants.
I enjoyed the majority of the show, but the beginning turned me off for a while. There was very little dialogue for the first few minutes, which made me worry that the show would be dumbed-down Shakespeare. Then Aegeon (the father of the Antipholus’), played by Richard Scharine, launched into a huge monologue. I just didn’t understand the way the first few scenes were put together. Once Antipholus arrived in Ephesus, everything got much better and more understandable.
I liked many of the comedic additions to the show, like the asides with spotlight and thinking music (Jojo Percy, Lighting Design and Jennifer Lynn Jackson, Composer). Laura Melton as Dromio of Ephesus added sound effects that earned big laughs from the crowd. There was lots of physical comedy, as both Dromios, being servants and all, get pretty beaten up for their “mistakes.” Ryon Sharette did a great job choreographic these blows. I loved, too, the way the director addressed the height differenced between the two Antipholus’ without a single word. Throughout the play, I appreciated the interpretation of the text and the comedy that was brought out in the Bard’s words.
There were two or three scenes when actors onstage took my attention away from the action, because their choices (or lack of choices) in the background were weird and/or corny. This bothered me, because I’ve always been taught that if you’re on stage, you should be acting. Your actions, words, and sounds should look genuine and sound natural. I was also not a fan of the reminders that, ‘This is just a play.” Interactions from the crew were funny, sure, but unneeded. It mainly just took me out of the story, which is comedic enough on it’s own.
Finally, I want to sing some praises to the Dromios: the two little servant boys who grew into hilarious and stalwart companions to their Antipholuses (Antipholusi?). Laura Melton (yes, one Dromio is a woman in this production) and Andy Ricci were the highlight of my night, for sure. Head to toe I loved those two: with their lisps, injuries, sound effects, innocent looks, and dogged loyalty; they’re ridiculously cute characters. Melton and Ricci really throw themselves into these characters; it was phenomenal to watch.
Shakespeare did it first, people—that whole twin switch-a-roo story—and it’s playing now at the Babcock Theatre. There are confessions of love, worried women, accusations and arrests. It starts off rough, but you’ll get your money’s worth in chuckles by the end. I loved those crazy twins and all their mix-ups; it was a fun night at the theater, for sure.