OGDEN — The Ziegfeld Theatre says “Howdy” to a new season by taking a Western twist on Shakespeare‘s The Comedy of Errors by transporting the audience to the California gold rush. Directed by Josh Durfey, this show is a rootin’ tootin’ good time meshed with iambic pentameter. One of the Bard’s earliest works of comedy, this play follows two sets of twins, separated in infancy by a shipwreck, who are identical in both face and name: each Dromio serves an Antipholus. The shipwreck splits the family in half with the wife, one son, and one servant float one way, while the man is left with the other son, and the other servant. The two sets of twins grow up apart from each other until Antipholus (of Syracuse) sets out to find his brother in Ephesus, where they are mistaken by everyone for the twins who grew up there in Ephesus. Thus ensues a comedy of errors and balderdash as the two groups cross paths and confuse themselves and all the town folks.
The two sets of twins are evenly cast and believable to be mistaken as identical twins. Although I would ask that the Dromios either both have mustaches or no mustaches. The choice for one to have a mustache took away from the “identical” twin look and damaged the humor. Antipholus of Syracuse (played by Maxx Teuscher) and Dromio of Syracuse (played by Nat Von) are a great pair of master and servant. Teuscher’s response of “Am I in earth, in heaven, or in hell? Sleeping or waking, mad or well-advised?” sets the tone for the rest of the show.
Von is incredible in his descriptions about the kitchen maid Nell (played by Kirk Stapley), and Von has the comedic timing and gestures to create a amusing performance. Shakespeare’s writing of the kitchen maid being “no longer from head to foot than from hip to hip: she is spherical, like a globe” are full of humor and wit that may be condemned as fat shaming in today’s writing. But Von’s and Teuscher’s jest on these jokes hit it off well and had me chuckling with laughter for a while.
As Antipholus of Ephesus, David Knowles has a commanding demeanor that is convincing in showing his character’s efforts to figure out what has gone on with his wife, his servant, and his entire town. Although Knowles messed up a few lines, he was able to catch back up and carry on with his monologues. Shakespeare’s rhythm of iambic pentameter makes it hard to cover up missed lines without the audience noticing, but Knowles did well getting back on track.
The endearing Dromio of Ephesus is played by Cooper Lavallee. His Dromio encounters Antipholus of Syracuse and mistakes him as his master. Begging Antipholus to get to dinner at home, Lavallee is both compelling and nervous as a servant who is prone to be beaten by both his master and his mistress if he doesn’t do what they tell him.
Antipholus of Ephesus’s wife Adriana was smartly played by Mara Lefler. Her pleadings and ramblings while worrying about her husband were passionate and shrewdly executed. She had many monologues throughout the night that were so impassioned and ridiculous at the same time. Lefler nailed her last monologue, which was not an easy piece, with her over the top oration of a woman in distress.
The California gold rush take on this classic play written over 427 years ago creates a setting and characters that are more recognizable and relatable to the audience. The names of the characters and the cities do feel out of place and unnatural in a western setting, but I am glad that Durfey didn’t take the liberty to change these iconic names and characters and stayed true to the Shakespearean script while updating it for a different take and accessibility. Designed by director Durfey and painted by Von, the rustic design of the western set helped the town come alive. I enjoyed the sound design by Rebecca Knowles. The addition of rag music and sad violin music added a lot to the feeling and setting of the show. The green lighting depicting mystery and villainy were a great touch, as Antipholus of Syracuse claims something evil is going on.
In the end, I really enjoyed Ziegfeld’s The Comedy of Errors. I wasn’t sure what to expect with Shakespeare and a western twist, but I felt it added to such an enjoyable slapstick comedy. I recommend this production as a fun night out for both Shakespeare fanatics or first-timers. I know audiences will enjoy these fond fools and the rowdy ruckus. As Luciana says, “How many fond fools serve mad jealousy!”