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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘The Comedy of Errors’ merrily goes ’round and ’round in Oshkosh

Critic At Large

University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Theatre

Program covers.

OSHKOSH, Wis. (WFRV)

The joke is “The Comedy of Errors” is still being done.

The thing is 425 years old, is not particularly relevant and yet still makes people laugh.

It is William Shakespeare at his silliest. I mean, two sets of identical twins who people mistake for each other and serve up heaping, steaming plates of confusion. How ridiculous is that?

But with Shakespeare, it isn’t what is written, it is how it is written. The silliness holds together with words, sentences and phrases akin to a chain-link fence.

Easily capturing the for-the-fun-of-it spirit is the cast of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Theatre production that continues for one more performance today, Nov. 24, in Fredric March Theatre.

Director Jane Purse-Weidenhoeft and scenic designer Roy Hoglund envision a present-day look and sound. Aura-setting music has a beat and an upbeat feel. The backdrop and stage floor are landscapes of Lego-like brickwork – the back wall including question marks (?s) turned every which way.

Playfulness continues in clothing designed by Kathleen Donnelly. The authoritative dude (Zack Cowell) who holds an interloper’s (Matthew Beecher) fate in his hands wears a modern suit of strong blue with an array of colorful designs splashed all over. The sets of twins are lookalikes in dress – herringbone-pattern jackets and mod shades for the regal brothers, colorful geometric-patterned pants and boldly colored jackets and baseball caps for their minions, though differing in green for one and yellow for the other.

The script remains the same. So the production is basically Shakespeare in new clothing.

The players are limber. The entourage is lively. Phrasing and words are still from back when, but the body English and physicality are universal.

There is a lot of zest in the regal brothers (the Antipholuses) played by Garret Johnson and Matthew Peplinski and the minion brothers (the Dromios) played by Drake Hansen and Rory Sherrod.

As the wife Adriana, Autumn Christensen is striking in movement, gesture and expression. Vivid.

Ali Basham expresses the warmth of Adriana’s sister Luciana, who attracts the unmarried regal brother.

Rachel Gramlow taps into the trapped situation of the jewelry merchant whose gold chain sets off major volumes of twisty he-said, no-he-saids – ’round and ’round we go, up and down we go again.

The production has zing and eye pop.

***

Creative: Playwright – William Shakespeare; director – Jane Purse-Wiedenhoeft; costume designer – Kathleen Donnelly; lighting design, technical director – Mark Spitzer; scenic design – Roy Hoglund; sound design – Nathaniel Wolkoff; production stage manager – Shelby Edwards; scenic painter – Aubrey Kestell; props – Daria Chirhart

Cast:

Egeon – Matthew Beecher

Solinus – Zack Cowell

Antipholus of Syracuse – Garret Johnson

Dromio of Syracuse – Drake Hansen

First Merchant of Ephesus – Rachel Gramlow

Antipholus of Ephesus – Matthew Pepinski

Dromio of Ephesus – Rory Sherrod

Adriana – Autumn Christensen

Luciana – Ali Basham

Luce – Rachel Bartelme

Administrative Assistant to Adriana – Emmalie Grobner

Angela – Briana Gens

Second Merchant of Ephesus – Vinnie Noel Albin, Jr.

Balthazar – Isaac Davis

Courtesan – Kennedy Corpus

Dr. Pinch – Samara Markle

Officer of the Law – Maxwell Benitz

Busybody of Ephesus – Rachel Larson

Emilia, Lady Abbess – Molly Hennig

Running time: One hour, 40 minutes

Remaining performance: 2 p.m. Nov. 24

Info: uwosh.edu/theatre/comedy-errors

***

NEXT: “Beast on the Moon: A Love Story,” by Richard Kalinoski, Feb. 27-29, March 5-8.

THE VENUE: The 498-seat Fredric March Theatre includes a traditional proscenium (flat front stage) that’s 40 feet wide by 16 feet high. Built in 1971, the theater is located in the heart of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh campus. The exterior features a 1970s era UW campus architectural style that embraces cement, in this case the cement reminiscent of geometric trees supporting a flat roof on the glass-enclosed entry and lobby. The interior features honeycombed red-brick walls and a slightly arcing seating area with no center aisle, with a general impression of closeness to the stage, which is especially wide. Leg room is abundant. The acoustics are crisp for the spoken voice in plays.

THE PERSON: Fredric March was a famous actor who was born in 1897 in Racine. March had no direct connection with UW-Oshkosh prior to the naming of the theater. He earned the honor due to the respect for his level of performance on Broadway and film – and being from Wisconsin. March and his wife attended the grand opening. March earned best actor Oscars for “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” and “The Best Years of Our Lives.” He earned three Oscar nominations.

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