Aquila Theatre Company's Comedy of Errors, set in a Turkish world of tents, marketplaces and fezzes — activated by a rapid-fire, cartoonish sensibility — celebrates performance No. 100 on Sept. 25 in Manhattan.
The summer run seen downtown on East 13th Street moved to the midtown theatre district in September, taking over the Clurman Theatre on Theatre Row, 410 W. 42nd Street.
Presented as a comic-book-colored yarn, with a hint of Indiana Jones in the Middle East,, director Robert Richmond's staging of the Shakespeare classic began downtown previews June 26, opened July 11, and moved to the Clurman Sept. 3.
At the Clurman, Cameron Blair replaced Mira Kingsley in the role of Luciana (although Kingsley steps in as Adriana the week of Sept. 23-29), Mark Cameron Pow (formerly the Duke and Angelo) replaced Mark Saturno as the Antipholuses and James Michael Riley is now the Duke (and others). Louis Butelli continues as the Dromios, Lisa Carter is Adriana, Alex Webb plays Egeon, Balthasar (and others) and Celestina Villanueva is Nell (and others).
* Aquila Theatre Company is the cross-cultural theatre troupe that mixes British and American actors and puts physical, quirky spins on classics. Following its popular six-month run of the James Bond era Much Ado About Nothing in 2001, Aquila revisits its previously mounted Comedy of Errors, which played 60 cities around the U.S. (in rep with The Iliad) but only got a handful of performances in a New York University building in Manhattan four years ago. Adding new costumes and a couple of new cast members, Aquila artistic director Peter Meineck decided to give the rollicking work a proper staging in a proper theatre.
Aquila reinvents the classic Shakespeare yarn about twins, mistaken identity and romance, by setting it as a "1920 Turkish cartoon dream" as if the audience has walked into a Casbah as imagined by Belgian cartoon artist Herge (of "Tintin" fame), Meineck told Playbill On-Line. The quirky print ad campaign is in the style of newspaper adventure series cartoon strips of yesteryear.
Aquila productions are known for playing fast and loose with text, setting and concept. The twist of the Aquila version of Comedy of Errors is that the famed twins of the script — the two Dromios and two Antipholuses — will be played by one actor each. (The Playbill bios suggest otherwise.)
Some reviewers in the past actually thought the roles were played by four actors, Meineck said. How director-adaptor Robert Richmond deals with the reunions and reconciliations at the end of the play will not be given away here, but audiences have been intrigued by the double casting throughout the run.
Is there a precedent for one actor playing both twins?
"I don't think anyone else has been foolish enough to try it," Meineck said. The result of the casting concept, he said, is that you think more deeply about identity and other issues of the play.
The original musical score is by Anthony Cochrane, who composed music for Much Ado (and played Benedick). The production includes Aquila's signature physically-charged prologue (in this case, the back story of the twins and slaves being lost at sea). In Much Ado, the sequence was a stylized 1960s spy-games battle that suggested the war from which Benedick and Claudio emerge.
The Aquila Theatre Company has presented six classical plays Off Broadway in New York since 1999. Meineck and Richmond serve as production designers on Comedy of Errors.
Tickets are $45. Performances play 8 PM Tuesdays Fridays, 5 & 9 PM Saturdays, 2 & 5 PM Sundays (a slight change from the downtown schedule). For reservations and information call Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200 or visit aquilatheatre.com.
To view Playbill On-Line's August 2001 Brief Encounter interview with Peter Meineck, click here.
Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors (Aquila has cut "the" from the title) is thought to have premiered in 1594 and was inspired by the ancient Roman work of Plautus.
— By Kenneth Jones