THE COMEDY OF ERRORS (Lantern): Twins, shipwreck, mistaken identity, romance gone awry

One of Shakespeare’s greatest hits, his first comedy, The Comedy of Errors, is playing at the Lantern Theater Company until June 16. Twins, shipwreck, mistaken identity, romance gone awry, this show is a lot of fun, and it’s complicated.  No, really.

Two sets of grown identical twins, separated at birth, don’t know each other. Mistaken identities ensue. Egeon, an old man, gets a death sentence for trespassing, although he maintains that he’s not a criminal. He tries to explain that he’s been searching for his lost son who was separated at birth. He has two sons named Antipholus. They’re twins, and they have servants, Dromio and Dromio. Also twins, of course. 

One of the Antipholus brothers is a violent merchant who frequently cheats on his lovely, yet fierce wife, Adriana.

The unrelenting comic pace has clockwork choreography and antic, split-second timing. Two commentators with microphones show up in green jackets and throw in nutty ads that start with the well-known words “but soft…” stolen from another Shakespeare play. Less important parts of the story are moved along swiftly, sounding like the fast forwarding of a speeded-up audio tape, where characters from old films are thrown in, amusing the audience.  The Lantern has crafted a Shakespeare on steroids. 

The comic direction also includes a Zero Mostel Comedy Tonight vibe. Historians in the audience may catch a whiff of Mack Sennett and the Keystone Cops. And there’s that wonderful lack of profundity in comedy. The plot of The Comedy of Errors is pretty complicated to follow. If you think you get it, you’ve probably missed something. 

The audience ate this up with a spoon.  Imaginative director Charles McMahon made the right decision selecting actors. And along with the admirable cast, sound and light are also stars of the show. The director and his merry crew pull off a coup de theatre with their hyper-drive take on The Comedy of Errors, where wordplay and language games don’t quit and the action never stops, and neither does it slow down for a Philadelphia minute. The outrageous, mischievous, and profanely inventive crew at Lantern pull off another grand theft as they cram gags into the play. As I’ve been known to say in my reviews: Nobody does Shakespeare comedy like the Lantern. 

(Personal note: Shakespeare had identical twins. I copied, and had identical twins too.)

[Lantern Theater Company at St. Steven’s Theater, 10th and Ludlow Streets] May 18-June 18, 2024;

Approximately two hours with an intermission.

Playwright William Shakespeare
Director Charles McMahon
Exec. Director Stacy Maria Dutton
J Hernandez as Dromio of Syracuse • Dave Johnson as Antipholus of Syracuse • Brian McCann as Aegeon/Angelo/Pinch • Lee Minora as Aemilia/Courtezan • Kishia Nixon as Adriana • Campbell O’Hare as Luciana • Matteo Scammell as Antipholus of Ephesus • Zach Valdez as Dromio of Ephesus

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