Trinity Shakespeare Festival Makes Actors Do Double Duty in Comedy of Errors

The Comedy of Errors at Trinity Shakespeare Festival in Fort Worth offers some of one and too much of the other. It's a weak play by Shakespearean standards, a one-note farce that blows that same note over and over and over. Director Joel Ferrell tries to liven things up with cartoon gangsters lurking around every corner and a spit take now and then, but the laughs just don't come often enough.

The plot, if you need a reminder, finds a pair of twins, long separated from their siblings by a shipwreck, all showing up in Ephesus (Trinity Shakes' setting by Tristan Decker looks like a dollhouse version of the island of Santorini). One twin, Antipholus (Richard Haratine), and his servant Dromio (Jakie Cabe) keep being mistaken for the other twin and his servant, who have identical names (and are both played by the same actors). Among the confused are wives, courtesans, jailers and jewelers.

The Comedy of Errors is early Shakespeare, borrowed, say the experts, from Plautus' Menaechmi. The broad physical comedy, chase scenes, endless instances of mistaken identity — hilarious perhaps in ancient Greek or Elizabethan times. We of the modern world have seen ye olde twin gimmick too often to find it fresh. Comedy of Errors was remade as Rodgers and Hart's The Boys from Syracuse and more recently in the hip-hop adaptation Bomb-itty of Errors (done at Second Thought not long ago). Lily Tomlin and Bette Midler starred in a movie version called Big Business in the late 1980s. The sitcom Perfect Strangers borrowed the long-lost twins idea, too. Or was it Happy Days?

Having the same actors play both of the Antipholuses (Antipholi?) and Dromios stretches the Trinity Shakespeare cast too thin. Haratine and Cabe don't make their "twins" different enough to make it obvious which ones they're playing. Adding a jacket or a hat doesn't create instantly obvious distinctions during the mix-ups. That just about kills the comedy, though Cabe keeps trying, bless him, mugging his face off working to bring some Marx Brothers-style mayhem to the action.

Playing Antipholus' wife, lovely Lydia Mackay is a ginger-haired spitfire, loose of lip and limb as she struggles to figure out why her husband is acting like he doesn't know her (it's the other twin, duh). Trivia note: Mackay in real life is married to Jeffrey Schmidt, who's playing Benedick in Much Ado at Shakespeare Dallas. That's sort of a cute sitcom-in-the-making right there. Somebody write that, please.