Stumbling slapstick, sharp one-liners, and situations filled with tomfoolery were the tiles that were used to make the mosaic that was Eastern Washington University’s newest theatrical production The Comedy of Errors written William Shakespeare.
“They (the cast) didn’t believe me when I told them how silly this play was. Ploutess is the masters of silly”, said Gene Engene, the faculty director of the play.
I furrowed my brows and asked who Ploutess was. Gene told that Ploutess was the author of the play and that all of Shakespeare’s plays, with the exception of Love’s Labours Lost, are adaptations. News to me I thought.
As I sat with Gene and chatted I came to learn that he has done fifteen to twenty of Shakespeare’s plays and that we had at least one in common, A Midsummer’s Night Dream, I am a thespian as well and who can escape the Master as a thespian, or a human for that matter but I’ll get to that later. “Have the lions part written? Pray you, if it be, give it to me, for I am slow of study.” (Snug the Joiner) “You may do it extempore, for it is nothing but roaring.” (Quince). I was Snug; he is not a very talkative character in that play which probably says a bit about my acting abilities, oh well.
My point is that Gene was a veritable fount of knowledge about his profession. He has worked from coast to coast in theatres. He regaled me with stories about a theatre that he kept in his pocket, so to speak. The troupe, Center Theatre Group, was five people in size, and had no home except for the hearts of those that made it up. They acted in a bar and an old Railroad hotel and wherever it might suit them. He told they spent many a year in a logging town, St. Mary’s, which had several intellectuals, including the loggers.
I very much enjoyed all that he told me and was excited to see the production he had guided.
The play itself made me think of the Three Stooges and cartoons. A brother Dromio stutter stepped around corners and while running like Bugs Bunny and leapt like the roadrunner, really I wanted to pinch him just to see if any ink came off on my fingers. I really started to see through time and get a feel for how timeless comedy and theatre in general is. These sort of antics were being done in Ancient Greece, I was caught a bit off guard by this.
At other times a guard and his prisoner were dodging about the stage and poking their heads out of various nooks and I thought of the wacky 60’s show “Laughin”. Really this comedy had it all. There were blunders of identity and intelligence abound.
As with all Shakespeare plays the lines were poetry and lyrical. All the actors carried the language well. “Time comes stealing by night and day.” I loved it all rolled of their tongues. It was a full round comedy, a boisterous comedy.
The leads were strong and carried the play well. My hat’s off to those who played Dromio, Adriana, Antipholus, and Luciana. As well, the rest of the cast all looked sounded like their parts. Bravo.
The second act was truly my favorite. The world went to into a fit of madness about the players and brought out of my chest the same in the form of laughter. I thought it was just a hoot. It was a comedy then of crazy mistakes, slapstick abuse blended with the wit of words. I am sure that by the time it opens the first act will have shaped up too, not to say it was bad, but I really was taken with the second act. Comedy is a funny thing. It really does work best with a crowd. And I was by myself, essentially for the first part so some of the humor went over my head, but I am sure, or at least I hope I have, that is conveyed that this was truly a delightful time spent.