Review: “The Comedy of Errors”

RECOMMENDED

Where: Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks, various parks
When: through Aug. 25
Tickets: free, no tickets required
Phone: 312-595-5600

By ANNE SPISELMAN
Theater Critic

Chicago Shakespeare Theater kicked off its second summer of Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks on Sunday, July 28, at Eckhart Park in the Noble Square neighborhood, and a rollicking good time was had by all. This year’s show is “The Comedy of Errors,” and the schedule has been expanded to 26 performances in 18 different parks, including Washington Park and the South Shore Cultural Center.

David H. Bell, who adapted and directed the 75-minute version of Shakespeare’s early comedy, has come up with an amusing frame. The players, whose stage and sets have been unpacked from a truck, belong to a Depression-era touring company, and while they’re waiting for some of their colleagues to show up, they consider what play to perform if they don’t. The day is saved as the latecomers straggle in, and what follows focuses on making The Bard accessible to people of all ages, education and experience levels.

Shakespeare’s language isn’t completely sacrificed, but the emphasis definitely is on simplifying the play’s complexities and lots of slapstick and other physical antics. In fact, a trio of skilled acrobats — Wesley Daniel, Jacob Grubb and P. Tucker Worley — practically steal every scene they’re in, especially when they’re impersonating Italian waiters, one of the many anachronisms. The other standout for my money (or lack thereof) is Samuel Taylor, whose incredibly speedy Dromio of Syracuse is a hoot.

As I’m sure you recall, he and his master, Antipholus of Syracuse (Paul Hurley), have come to Ephesus (where Syracusans aren’t welcome) in search of their twins, Antipholus of Ephesus (Andy Lutz) and his servant, Dromio (Jurgen Hooper), for whom they’re mistaken at every turn, including by A of E’s wife, Adriana (Lanise Antoine Shelley), and her sister, Luciana (Tiffany Yvonne Cox).

I’ve seen a couple of brilliant productions of “The Comedy of Errors,” and this certainly isn’t one of them. It doesn’t offer any new insights, and except for Ana Kuzmanic’s color-coded costumes, isn’t visually all that interesting, but the ensemble is topnotch, and the price is right.

Here’s hoping some of Chicago’s food trucks turn up at the other performances, or the parks have concession stands, because the one thing missing from Eckhart Park was fixings for an impromptu picnic.