Police officers wearing short shorts suggestively handle their candy cane–shaped batons. A witch skips in and delivers her characteristic screech. A woman — red horns on her head, red tail dangling from her lower back — speaks with a French/German accent. A cranky janitor wearing the classic Groucho Marx disguise unexpectedly snaps at two sets of matching, extravagantly dressed twins.
No, this is not a scene out of Pierson’s Inferno last week, contrary to what you might have heard from your friends. Nor is it a scene out of any other recent Halloween parties, for that matter. Nope. This is from — Shakespeare?
Uh-huh, Shakespeare’s “Comedy of Errors,” an all-out farce, or as director Cooper Lewis ’11 intended it (and certainly succeeded), a “pure farce.” It is chaotic, extravagant, unashamedly modern and, yes, very funny.
Among the more amusing characters are the goldsmith Angelo (Tom Sanchez ’12), the two Dromios (Tully McLoughlin ’11 and Andy Wagner ’09) and the four male (and one female) “hot cops.”
If there is one thing that these last characters have in common, it is that they are all — to varying degrees — secondary in the play’s main plot, involving the twins Antipholus of Syracuse (Lucas O’Connor ’09), Antipholus of Ephesus (Will Turner ’11), his wife Adriana (Carly De Feis ’12) and her sister Luciana (Lauren Hunter ’10).
“The Comedy of Errors,” less concerned with character development, is instead driven by plot, by action. Lewis, knowing this, takes it a step further: He has merchants selling bananas, rope and bread — and maybe something else — to an officer in the background; two pseudo-mariachis — one rattling a pair of maracas, the other strumming an acoustic guitar — singing in barely intelligible Spanglish in between certain scenes; brief “street scenes” or interludes reenacting passages from other Shakespeare plays; and, most frequently, the “sexy cops.”
Somewhat resembling flamboyantly gay Lt. Jim Dangle from “Reno 911!,” the officers are named Hardwood, Skinsation, McBone and Sausage. They come on and offstage throughout the play and, frankly, they are probably the ones having the most fun (audience included), engaging in conspicuous sessions of self-exploration and model-posing and even kissing one another.
At the same time, the cops and all the other background characters make it difficult to follow the play’s dialogue and main plot by drawing too much attention to themselves.
Lewis’ adaptation of this play would have been perfect if it had been staged last week, with the Halloween spirit still very much in the air. The flamboyant costumes and overall chaotic nature of this adaptation would have made much more sense then, and maybe would have occasioned more laughs in a, shall we say, more receptive (tipsy) audience.
To all those serious, by-the-book (or by-the-script, as it were) Shakespearians out there, this play will most likely not satisfy you; it will, however, shock you. To all the adventurous others, you will laugh, you will cry (well, not really; that’s a lie), and you will maybe even learn a few new words. That is, if you’re not too busy checking out those winking, lip-pursing cops.
“The Comedy of Errors,” with a duration of approximately an hour and 45 minutes, runs in the Saybrook Underbrook, with a show tonight at 8 p.m. and three on Saturday at 2 p.m., 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.