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Bard's 'Comedy of Errors' goes Hollywood at HCC


So you didn't make Time magazine's recent roster o "America's top 100 cultural elite." Not to worry. The National Shakespeare Company is on a mission -- "to dispel the bugaboo that Shakespeare is for the elite" -- and it's going to outrageous lengths to prove its point.

The Bard goes to Hollywood in a touring production of "The Comedy of Errors," in town last Saturday as part of the Harford Community College Fine Arts Calendar.

This farce is about two sets of identical twins who are separated shortly after birth and land in the same town on the same fateful day as their long-lost father.

But through director Casey Kizziah's celluloid vision, these players become a cast of characters last seen in Hollywood's heyday.

The Antipholus twins are matinee idols, their twin servants become Marx Brother bellboys, and the jealous wife Adriana is a Jean Harlow look-alike, complete with platinum wig, feather boa and long-handled cigarette holder.

The father as W. C. Fields is a bit much, but for the most part the casting makes so much sense it soon becomes impossible to imagine actors in doublets saying these lines.

The action is fast and furiously funny. Pseudo-violent horseplay abounds, and I wonder how many episodes of the Three Stooges Mr. Kizziah must have watched before staging this play.

There's slapstick and somersaults. A hubcap rolls across the stage and crashes into a flat. A love scene turns into a torrid tango. It's the edge of chaos, that delightfully dangerous place where anything can happen.

As for the acting, it is simply excellent. Solid technique -- crisp diction, clear objectives, physical agility -- lays the groundwork for the froth. The crazy costumes and off-the-wall antics aren't mere gimmickry here, but actors' tools masterfully used to create an illusion.

After every possible comic complication of mistaken identity has been exhausted, the two sets of twins confront each another for a double-take climax that can't be beat. Even those purists who like their Shakespeare straight exit laughing.

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