It's not just comedy tonight, it'll be comedy tomorrow when Aquila Theatre Company's Comedy of Errors extends its summer run in Manhattan past the announced close date of Sept. 1 and moves from the East 13th Street Theatre to the Harold Clurman Theatre on 42nd Street.
Trimmed and flavored with an Indiana Jones glaze, director Robert Richmond's staging of the Shakespeare classic ends its downtown run Sept. 1 and reopens Sept. 3 in midtown — Off Broadway's The Clurman is at 410 W. 42nd Street.
Aquila Theatre Company, the cross-cultural theatre troupe that mixes British and American actors and puts physical, quirky spins on classics, revived its popular 1998 staging of Comedy of Errors July 11 for an Off-Broadway summer run at the East 13th Street Theatre (home of the Classic Stage Company). Previews began June 26.
Following its popular six-month run of the James Bond-era Much Ado About Nothing in 2001, Aquila revisits its 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 laughing 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 cast of Aquila actors includes Lisa Carter as Adriana (last seen as Beatrice in Aquila's Much Ado), Louis Butelli (last seen as Don John, Dogberry and Friar Francis in Much Ado) as Dromio, Alex Webb (last seen as Leonato Much Ado) as Egeon, Pinch and Balthasar, Mira Kingsley (last seen as Calpurnia in Aquila's Julius Caesar) as Luciana, Mark Saturno (last seen on tour as Trinculo and Sebastian in Aquila's Tempest) as Antipholus, Mark Cameron-Pow (last seen on tour as Stephano and Gonzalo in Tempest) as The Duke and Angelo and Celestina Villanueva as Nell and The Abbess.
The original musical score is by Anthony Cochrane, who composed music for Much Ado (and played Benedick). The production will include Aquila's signature physical opening sequence. In Much Ado, the sequence was a stylized 1960s spy-games battle that suggested the war from which Benedick and Claudio emerge.
Performances continue to Sept. 1 at the East 13th Street Theatre (136 E. 13th Street between Third and Fourth Avenues).
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.
Performances on 13th Street play 8 PM Tuesday-Friday, 5 & 9 PM Saturday, 3 & 7 PM Sunday. The schedule at the Clurman will change slightly, offering Sunday shows at 2 & 5 PM. Tickets are $45. For reservations and information call Telecharge at (212) 239-6200 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