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BWW Review: COMEDY OF ERRORS - Delightful Summer Shakespeare

Penfold Theatre Company's annual 'Shakespeare in the Park' at Round Rock's Amphitheatre adjacent to the Baca Senior Center, is a lovely setting for an utterly delightful show. This year's production of COMEDY OF ERRORS showcases their expertise with the Bard as well as the company's seemingly boundless talent. The ensemble cast of only five actors play all of the more than twenty roles in a whirlwind of character switching.

As one of Shakespeare's early plays THE COMEDY OF ERRORS is easily his most farcical, using more slapstick elements than his later comedies. The story begins in Ephesus where Egeon (Andy Bond in one of many roles) has come in search of one of his twin sons who was lost in a shipwreck. Egeon is sent to prison and sentenced to death because he is from the enemy city of Syracuse and forbidden to be in Ephesus. The twin brothers, both named Antipholus (Aaron Johnson in both roles) and their twin servants, both named Dromio (Dan Dalbout in both roles) cause all manner of confusion between Adriana (Rene Fulton in one of many roles), the wife of Antipholus of Ephesus and her sister, Luciana (Jessica Hughes in one of many roles). The action centers around confusing one twin for the other in a series of 'just missed' entrances and exits. Antipholus of Syracuse sends his servant Dromio of Syracuse to secure lodgings giving him his money for safekeeping, as one Dromio exits the other enters and Antipholus mistakes Dromio of Ephesus for his Dromio and asks about the money he has been given. Not understanding why his master is asking about something he hasn't done, he gets a beating from Antipholus for his cheeky attitude. Antipholus of Ephesus is in the town engaging Angelo, the jeweler to make a gold chain for him. Later when the chain is given to Antipholus of Syracuse, he accepts the jewelry as a gift. When Angelo, tries to get his money from Antipholus of Ephesus he is rebuffed, no chain has been given to him and he will not pay. Angelo has Antipholus arrested and at the jail Adriana brings Doctor Pinch (Andy Bond) to help because he has gone seemingly mad. Doctor Pinch is to exorcise evil from the distracted Antipholus who has seemingly gone mad. The complicated knots of Shakespearean plot are all untangled hilariously and a happy ending is in the offing. The most complicated scene is due to the small company of actors on stage. The scene requires both sets of twins to meet each other face to face. How can that be done with two actor playing four roles? Well, it's done in a slick, well planned and well executed final scene where every actor moves with precision and flawless execution.

Set in Round Rock's Amphitheatre, a jewel of a venue, opening night's temperatures soared into the high nineties, but the breeze cooled the open area behind the Baca Senior Center, and it was quite pleasant, not hot at all. The Penfold production helmed by director Ryan Crowder is outstanding in every way. Not only is the show entertaining but the intricate balance of having just five actors creating over twenty roles is magnificent in its simplicity and awe inspiring in its scope. Crowder's adaption of the script is sharp and helps his actors flow seamlessly from scene to scene, changing costume elements in double time, never letting the action lag. The clever use of a commedia dell'arte broad acting style is used to great effect. The entire cast is brilliance itself. Andy Bond's versatile comic talent is showcased by the wide range of his roles, as Doctor Pinch, the exorcist, he is pitch perfect, as he is in every role. Jessica Hughes runs the character gambit from younger sister Luciana to Angelo the jeweler and is so different in each character I had to look at my program several times to make sure I wasn't missing an additional actor. My favorite of Rene Fulton's roles was Adriana, her physical investment in the part is amazing to watch and truly funny. As the Dromio twins, Dan Dalbout shows outstanding timing and his seamless role switching is a joy. If there is a standout in a thoroughly superior cast, it's Aaron Johnson as the Antipholus twins. Johnson not only plays every moment for all its worth, he is charismatic and makes it all look effortless. Kudos to the running crew for their obvious hard work, nothing that looks as smooth as this production without a well oiled and professional backstage presence. Costumes by Kari Taylor are attractive and simple, giving the audience just enough information as to the character with ought weighing down the actors for quick changes. The set design by Patrick and Holly Crowley is, like the costumes, simple and functional, never being a distraction from the focus on the actors, yet providing multiple levels and entrances to move set prices and actors efficiently.

I give my highest recommendation to COMEDY OF ERRORS for everyone, Shakespeare fan or not. Take a couple of chairs or a blanket, the beverage of your choice, a few munchies and make an evening of it with Penfold Theatre in Round Rock. I promise you will have a great time with one of Central Texas' premiere theatre companies.
Photos by Henry Huey, Round Rock Leader

COMEDY OF ERRORS
by William Shakespeare
Directed by Ryan Crowder
Round Rock Amphitheatre, behind the Baca Senior Center
301 W. Bagdad Ave
Round Rock TX 78664
Thursday - Saturday July 7 - 30 at 8:00PM

Running Time: 90 minutes with one 15 minute intermission

Tickets: Free, donations welcome penfoldtheatre.org


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