- Shtick and move: Doug Mertz (left) and Nat DeWolf in the Pittsburgh Public Theater's The Comedy of Errors. Photo courtesy of Ric Evans.
Waiting for The Comedy of Errors to commence at the O'Reilly Theater, you may notice something definitely not traditionally Shakespearean: James Noone's set. There's a billboard promoting Desperate Housewives of Windsor. Another advertises the Shylock Loan Company. Everywhere your eye lights there's something like that. The place is plastered with the stuff. What's this? You're laughing before the curtain rises? What curtain? Are you certain there's a curtain?
Actually, you can be certain about what's ahead after chucking out expectations, ready for a rollicking good time in Pittsburgh Public Theater artistic director Ted Pappas' goofy, broad and wonderfully inventive take on a famous, simple bit of theater. Yes, simple. The play plays basically with one joke, double identities. And Master Will didn't mess around with the thing that much.
Egeon, a merchant from Syracuse, jumps right into the exposition -- once he catches his breath, having been chased all over Ephesus by some not very Mediterranean Seastone cops. Now you get where the romp is heading. Slapstick. Without the stick. But plenty of shtick. Egeon's lost son Antipholus, unbeknownst to him, has just come ashore, along with his servant, Dromio. Turns out each of those two has a twin -- both local residents. The local Antipholus is married, and he and his wife, Adriana, have had misunderstandings of late. You can imagine what kind of misunderstandings doth ensue when she's entreating with the wrong guy. And both Dromios get plenty of slaps when they botch their duties because they got them, equally, from the wrong bosses.
Yeah, and the Duke, who runs the town in his pinstripes, looks like a Sicilian transplant, or maybe the manager of Greek diner. No problem. Ephesus is in Greece, Syracuse is in Sicily. What's the dif?
Feel like laughing, pal? Go ahead. It's good for ya. And dig Darren Eliker playing to the hilt the actions and reactions of Antipholus of Syracuse. Zoom. Catch Tom Schaller as the Duke, greasing the wheels with perfect polish. Smooth. See the sweet and gentle lovability of Alex Coleman's Egeon. Kiss. You want the whole list? Forget it. This isn't a report card.
Think of it as 16 people in a fun-loving on-stage crew, all pulling in the same direction with clever backstage and forestage designers guided and piloted by Mr. Pappas' sure and steady hand.
It's a trip.
The Comedy of Errors continues through Nov. 4. Pittsburgh Public Theater, 621 Penn Ave., Downtown. 412-316 1600 or www.ppt.org