note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Beverly Creasey
Who would have thought of giving Shakespeare the silent treatment? The Lyric Stage of Boston's Spiro Veloudos, of course. He marries the wacky slapstick of mistaken identities in "The Comedy of Errors to the sweet charms of silent movies... and what a happy union it is! The boys from Syracuse an their Ephesian twins become Chaplin's Little Tramp and Harold Lloyd's deadpan optimist...not to mention sightings of Laurel & Hardy, the Keystone Kops and a very sexy Mae West. Even the glorious costumes (by Toni Bratton Elliott) are black and white...Steve Bergman's original silent movie music transports the audience to the good old days of yesteryear.
The set-up takes all of Act I but the sensational payoff in Act II is worth the wait. Veloudos ameliorates some of the long exposition in Act I by giving us strobe-lit cinematic flashbacks of the ill-fated sea voyage when two sets of twins were separated....during which funnyman Bob Saoud's forlorn jaw seems to lengthen as the story saddens, and he ages or rather loses age before our eyes --- not an easy trick to accomplish with only a hat for a prop!
More joy when John Kuntz as Antipholus/Harold Lloyd does what Lloyd is most famous for. (I won't give it away except to say it's positively timely.) If Shakespeare could infuse his plays with contemporary references (which are long lost on us) then why shouldn't The Lyric pepper the play with 20th Century allusions --- which lend themselves hilariously to the text!
Even more delight when Peter Carey as one of those Chaplinesque Dromii tries to explain himself in a thousand different ways. (It's a pity we never get to see his mountainous Lydia the Tattooed Lady!)
Ribtickling performances all around: from Burns & Allen --- the other duo, Geoffrey Burns and Clifford Allen --- as Laurel & Hardy; from Jennifer Valentine as the voluptuous Mae West courtesan; and from Bill Mootos and John Kuntz as the Antipholi and Carey and Ilyse Robbins as the Dromii. The rest of the cast too is wonderful but, alas, they labor under the burden of playing straight-men to the pranksters...and how they manage to keep straight faces is beyond me. I'm still giggling.