Piccolo Theatre's "The Comedy of Errors" Review - Clowning and Physical Comedy enter the world of Shakespeare

Piccolo Theatre’s The Comedy of Errors was a delight to watch!  A Shakespearean play that is already filled with humor and good-natured comedy, Piccolo Theatre took the comedy to the next level by incorporating clowning, physical comedy, and lots of creativity.  Set hidden within the Evanston Main Street Metra Station (and by hidden I mean hidden!) in a small and intimate theatre space, Piccolo Theatre’s The Comedy of Errors, directed by Christopher Marino promises lots of laughs.

Nick Amdor as Dromio of Ephesus and Michael Coale as Dromio of Syracuse in Piccolo Theatre's "The Comedy of Errors"

The story itself is a little complicating as the narrative revolves around mistaken identity, wherein  two sets of twins, with each set of twins possessing the same name, reconvene unknowingly decades after birth (confused, yet?!).  When parents Egeon and Emelia get separated in a storm at sea, their accompanying twin babies, Antipholus (of Syracuse) and Antipholus (of Ephesus) get consequently separated as well, along with the twins’ servants, another set of twins, Dromio and Dromio, later known as Dromio of Syracuse and Dromio of Ephesus.   The crux of the story really begins when Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse arrive in Ephesus, subsequently confusing the residents of Ephesus into thinking the Syracusean duo are the real Antipholes and Dromio of Ephesus.  The consequent confusion of characters, which in Shakespeare’s script is already laugh-worthy, are perfectly played out by each of the actors. 

Berner Taylor as Adriana and Vanessa Hughes as Courtesan in Piccolo Theatre's "The Comedy of Errors"

This particular production of The Comedy of Errors is clearly a stand-out due to its unique interpretation.  The clever incorporation of music into the play, the clowning and hyper-realism, as well as the creative usage of the set, which included a mobile set of life-size dioramas in which the characters, like puppets, popped in and out of, were all unique additions that Marino cleverly incorporated and executed.  The multi-person orchestra, which underscored high strung moments in the play and with which the actor’s shared an informal relationship, often queuing the orchestra when sharing bits of their narrative, was always fun to watch.  The almost vaudeville aspects of the production also brought a new twist to an otherwise more conventional production of Shakespeare.   Adding to this unconventionality, and one of the funniest parts of the show, involved a contemporary miniature toy truck (remote controlled by someone backstage) which boldly entered the theatre space on several occasions delivering messages to the inhabitants of Ephesus. 

Nick Amdor as Dromio of Ephesus and Joe Bianco as Antipholus of Syrcause in Piccolo Theatre's "The Comedy of Errors"

All of the actors dutifully delved into the comedy of this show and did so with nimbleness, playfulness, and commitment.  The innocence by which Max Ganet (Antipholes of Ephesus) and Joe Bianco (Antipholes of Syracuse), in addition to Michael Coale (Dromio of Syracuse) and Nick Amdor (Dromio of Ephesus) played their roles is part of the thrill of watching the play.   Amdor and Coale played their roles to a tee---they were comedic and well-worthy of audience sympathy as they attempted to loyally follow their master’s orders but instead found themselves in the hubbub of confusion that ensued.  Amdor’s nimbleness and clown acts were especially entertaining. 

Berner Taylor (Adriana) played the domineering, crazy, lustful wife of Antipholus with ease and fun.  Her jealousy, confusion, and desire for love were all palpable and could be seen aesthetically through her voluptuous bodily movements as well as through her bold facial expressions. 

Joe Bianco as Antipholus of Syracuse and Berner Taylor as Adriana in Piccolo Theatre's "The Comedy of Errors"

Glenn Proud (Angelo/1st Merchant) was another delight to watch, both in his clowning tidbits as 1st Merchant and as Angelo, the goldsmith.  At the start of the show, he, along with 2nd Merchant (Rob Grabowski) escaped the typical boundaries between audience and actor and comedically interacted with audience members.  From Grabowski’s meticulous popcorn act wherein he urged individual theatre-goers to take part in his edible delight,  to Proud’s wide-eyed enjoyment that often coincided with the words “very niiiiice!” (said in an Italian-esque foreign accent), the opening was quite the success.  Glenn Proud’s mafia-like, portrayal of Angelo, with his gilded jewelry, swagger, and tough-guy air, was just how I would imagine a conniving gold dealer to be, and was added confirmation of his talent as an actor.  Vanessa Hughes vaudeville-esque portrayal as Courtesan was also bold, risqué, and highly entertaining.

Vanessa Hughes as Courtesan and Joe BIanco as Antipholus of Syracuse in Piccolo Theatre's "The Comedy of Errors"

If you are looking for an entertaining story filled with lots of congenial confusion, a bit of clowning, and an audacious, action-packed theatre experience, then head over to Piccolo Theatre.  Who would ever know that within a loud and hectic Metra station one could find an intimate and treasured, high energy Shakespearean experience?

Piccolo Theatre-"The Comedy of Errors"

The Comedy of Errors

Written by William Shakespeare

Directed by Christopher Marino

Previews: Sept 2-4

Run: Sept 9-Oct 22, Fri and Sat @  8pm, Sun @  3pm


Piccolo Theatre
600 Main Street, Evanston IL 60202
Evanston Arts Depot at the Metra Station

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