Barbara Gaines started her tenure as artistic director for Chicago Shakespeare Theater (then called Chicago Shakespeare Workshop) in 1986 by staging Henry V on the rooftop of the Red Lion Pub. She’s closing it out with a production of The Comedy of Errors that contains a sly homage to that debut in the form of the St. Crispin’s Day speech.
The Comedy of Errors
Through 4/23: Tue 7:30 PM, Wed 1 and 7:30 PM, Thu-Fri 7:30 PM, Sat 2:30 and 7:30 PM, Sun 2 PM; also Thu 4/13 1 PM; no shows Tue 4/18 or Wed 4/19; Spanish subtitles Tue 4/11 7:30 PM, open captions Wed 4/12 1 and 7:30 PM, ASL interpretation Fri 4/14 7:30 PM; Chicago Shakespeare Theater, 800 E. Grand, 312-595-5600, chicagoshakes.com, $45-$92
First presented at Chicago Shakes in 2008, this Comedy of Errors features additional dialogue by Second City vet Ron West that creates a play-within-a-film-within-a-play setting. It’s 1940, and a film version of Shakespeare’s early farce about mistaken identity and twins separated at birth between Ephesus and Syracuse is being shot at breakneck speed at Shepperton Studios in London—in between bombing runs by the Luftwaffe.
But not even the threat of death from above can stop the hams from hamming it up, especially Kevin Gudahl’s Lord Brian Hallifax. Already disgruntled that he has to play one of the dim-witted servant Dromio twins, rather than one of the slightly less dense Antipholi (the other set of separated twins—just read the plot summary on your own), Hallifax keeps trying to work St. Crispin into the proceedings.
Meantime, the other Dromio and the film’s director, Dudley Marsh (Ross Lehman), is contending with an unfaithful wife (Susan Moniz), who also happens to be the leading lady, and a Hollywood crooner and RAF flyboy (Dan Chameroy) whose comfort with iambic pentameter is shaky.
I saw that first outing and remember it fondly. This incarnation hits a little differently given the circumstances of Gaines’s imminent departure as AD and everything going on in our own embattled times. But even with many of the same players on board, Gaines’s valedictory production doesn’t waste much energy with soppy nostalgia. It’s a suitably silly and generally well-paced affair that both sends up and honors the worlds of make-believe on stage and screen. A fine final treat from Gaines for we happy few, indeed.