Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Comedy of Errors—Post5 Theatre—SE Portland

Double Vision

This comedy by Mr. Shakespeare is adapted and directed by Ty Boice (co-founder and Artistic Director for this company).  It is playing at their space in the Sellwood area, 1666 SE Lambert St., through June 27th.  For more information, go to their site at www.post5theatre.org

Ka-Boom!  The secret of this show is that you have two sets of twins that have been separated at birth and know nothing of each other’s existence.  Now you can either try and find twin actors (unlikely) to do the roles, or have one person enacting them and when they meet, have him change a position of a cap or scarf to communicate to us which brother is speaking (interesting), or have a man and woman that look similar play the pair, disguised as guys (not bad).

But, in most cases, you throw similarities out the window and have them unlike as possible (like we have here).  That way the audiences can see the obvious differences but assume the characters within the play, can’t.  The most extreme example was when DeVito and Schwarzenegger were brothers in the film, Twins.  Whatever the device, most of the gags in the show revolve around this case of mistaken identities.

The plot, to be brief, has to do with a father, Egeon (Stan Brown), who lost his fortune in his home country of Elizabetha and, through a storm at sea, has been washed up onto the shores of Portlanda. He has also managed to lose his wife and his twin sons, Antipholus (Chip Sherman and Orion J. Bradshaw) and their twin servants, Dromio (Philip J. Berns and Brian Burger).  (A side note, why the devil would anybody call their twins by the same name. Duh.)

He soon discovers from the Duke of Portlanda (Pat Janowski) that to be a vagrant in their fair city is a death sentence, so he must find someone who will support or speak up for him.  (I don’t believe Northwesterners would be quite that cruel, except to Californians who might be planning to move up here.)  But it seems that one of the twins (Bradshaw) and his servant (Burger) have done well for themselves here, as he has a wife Adriana (Jessica Hillenbrand) who, with her sister, Luciana (Heidi Hunter), run a boarding house.

The other set of brothers (Sherman and Berns), the aliens, run into all sorts of unscrupulous people trying to part them from any monies they may have.  There is the local Goldsmith, Angelo (Dan Robertson), ching-a-ling, who has a bridge…er, gold chain, he wants to sell them.  There is the local concerned citizen (Ithica Tell) who wants to cure them.  Of course, there is the Courtezan (Aislin Courtis), who wants to sell her “goods” to the highest bidder.  And there is the diligent police officer (Matt Insley), who just wants justice done.  Obviously, mistaken identities add to the madcap, merry, mix-up, which is the crux of the story.  To tell more would be…er, telling, so mums the word.

Now, with all that being said…forget about it.  The real fun is in the presentation, thanks to Boice’s vision.  The physical comedy is brilliant!  It is part vaudevillian, commedia-del-arte, slapstick, and good, old-fashioned comic repartee.  And the two sets of twins are the main reason this succeeds, as they have the brunt of the humor.

Sherman, Bradshaw and Berns are all core members of the group, as well as Boice, and certainly have a comic-shorthand from all this time together to work with and it shows.  Sherman is always impressive in anything he does and his body movements and expressions are dance-like in their execution.  Berns, likewise, is very agile and nimble in his physical presentations and it’s a hoot to observe his facial contortions.  Also, always worth watching.  Bradshaw wears his feelings in his face, as you can see him thinking, digesting information and then reacting to the situation.  I look forward to his performances.  And Burger is a nice addition to the group and has quite a singing voice.

Tell, another veteran of the group, always has a commanding presence, as she does here toward the end of the play.  When Courtis was on, I somehow wasn’t able to concentrate on much else that was happening.  She is very appealing and could easily be a model and I wish her well in whatever direction she goes.  And Robertson is a gem, as he’s proven before in a couple of their shows.  His high-class attitude to his low-life ventures is priceless.  You looked forward to seeing his character onstage, as his mere presence always got a laugh.

Boice has a winner here and it’s his casting of the show and adaptation of the material (to Portland natives) that gives this high marks.  As always, I look forward to seeing his productions.  Next up for them is Much Ado About Nothing in mid-July.  Boom-Ka!

I recommend this show, especially for the comic antics.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.