CEDAR CITY — A set of identical twins and a set of identical triplets engage in a two-hour romp filled with mistaken identity, physical humor, and comedic hijinks. It’s positively Shakespearean, right?
This summer The Comedy of Terrors by John Goodrum—not to be confused with William Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, which is also playing at the 2021 Utah Shakespeare Festival—takes this classic comedic trope to the next level by carrying out the entire production with only two actors playing each of the roles.
It’s an Olympic-sized undertaking, and Alex Keiper and Michael Doherty definitely earned the gold.
During the pre-show lecture, Ryan Paul, a professor of history at Southern Utah University, called this play, “a master class in acting,” and encouraged audiences to, “sit back and watch two incredibly talented professionals practice their craft.”
The thing is, they were so good that it was easy to forget there were only two in the cast.
Directed by Brian Vaughn—a name that has become synonymous with some of the best the Utah Shakespeare Festival has to offer—the story comes to life with a local twist. Rather than taking place in some unnamed theater, Jo Smith (Keiper) arrives in Cedar City at the Randal Jones Theatre for what she thinks is an audition with director Vivian Jones (Doherty). She quickly learns it was actually Vivian’s identical twin brother, Beverly Jones (also Doherty), who has summoned her there as a favor to help him dig himself out of an awkward situation brought on by a tryst with Jo’s twin sister, Fiona (also Keiper).
And the plot only gets more layered from there.
Intermingled with a, “Who’s On First,” rhythm that would make Abbott and Costello proud, there are more local jokes about everything from the, “Cedar City Sons of Satan Society,” to the, “Hurricane LaVerkin American Shakespeare Festival.” And with all the airtime The Pastry Pub received, it was surprising not to see this popular sandwich shop listed among the sponsors for the evening.
The only thing they weren’t joking about is whether or not you have to wear a mask inside the Randal Jones Theatre. (Spoiler alert: you do.)
No stranger to Utah Shakes audiences, Doherty seemed like a natural fit for the role of the triplet brothers. His ability to play each of these quirky men in a unique way made it easy to tell which character was on stage, despite only minor costume adjustments. His physical humor, as well as the hilarious inflection in his voice, made him a joy to watch—even during his depictions of the less savory characters.
Keiper’s performance equally matched her male counterpart in every sense. Her several highlights included a fabulous Shakespearean monologue that made it easy to visualize her in one of the Bard’s more serious plays and her impeccably timed conversation with a recording of her own voice to give the illusion that more than one actress was speaking on stage.
Equally commendable for both Keiper and Doherty was the speed with which they were able to navigate backstage to appear from the opposite side as a different character—with no indication of being out of breath.
They definitely earned their 15-minute intermission.
Despite the many truly hilarious moments, the underlying “who’s who?” joke began to feel a little repetitive, though that is not necessarily a criticism of the actors, rather the script itself. Fortunately, the run time was just long enough to keep everyone laughing to the end.