at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Oregon Shakespeare Festival has a affinity for breakthrough productions of Comedy. In 2004 Bill Rauch set the play in Las Vegas with one set of twins sporting New Jersey accents and the other sounding Texan. Strip cocktail waitresses swirled through the audience at intermission. This year, OSF upped the creative ante and not only moved the set to the mythical wild west, they also adapted the play and made it a musical.
The story of two sets of twins, their father and mother, and how they reconnect is still at the core of the play. There’s a lot of Shakespeare’s rich speeches, too. The adaption freshens and exploits more of the comedy rather than replacing it.
Penny Metropulos has added music to both move the story and entertain. She tapped René Millán as a Mexican troubadour to bring us into the duplicated world. He is seductive in voice and looks, and with him on stage, pretty soon the fluffy story of mistaken identities is in full swing.
The music is well placed and enjoyable. All of the singing is at least adequate, and nothing molests the feeling of a fine frolic.
Tasso Feldman and John Tufts, pictured, play the two servant Dromios. They’re fun. The two master Antipholuses are appropriately young and energetic. Miriam Laube is a fine Adriana, wife to the local Antipholudus. Emily Knapp as Luciana, Adriana’s sister, is clearly best suited to the visiting Antipoholus. Every match and nuance is thought-through and consistent.
The buildup included a full 7-minute chase scene where nonsense and sight gags truly provide entertainment and not just madness.
Reality intrudes into the production only in one way, but it’s a doozy. Cristofer Jean plays Li Wei, a character adapted from Shakespeare’s merchant. His pigeon Chinese accent is offensive and jarring, even in the context of this making-fun-of-stereotypes farce. I understand that they wanted to do something with the original merchant, but this embarrassment was not an acceptable choice. Jean’s acting is fine, but the lines and direction given him are cruel.
There are one or two other nits to pick in the premier production of this musical adaption. But, that’s all.
Metropulos and crew brought to life a surprisingly consistent, coherent new take on Comedy. Something I never saw before. Something I didn’t expect. A production to cheer.