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Eugene Weekly : Coverstory : 7.17.08

 

Oregon Shakespeare Festival:

Traditional Innovator A Q&A with OSF Artistic Director Bill Rauch

Organized Insanity OSF’s costume shop

Last Man Standing Othello on the Elizabethan Stage through Oct. 10

It’s All Just a Case of Mistaken Identity A Comedy of Errors on the Elizabethan Stage through Oct. 12

Postmodern Angst, Zany Style The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler at the Bowmer Theatre through Nov. 1

Man Alone, and Whiny Coriolanus at the New Theatre through Nov. 2

Bare Bones Our Town on the Elizabethan Stage through Oct. 11

People in Motion John Sipes moves, but not to the music

 

It’s All Just a Case of Mistaken Identity

A Comedy of Errors on the Elizabethan Stage through Oct. 12

Dromio (Tasso Feldman) escapes for a moment. Photo: T. Charles Erickson

Shakespeare’s confounding comedy is adapted into a rough-and-tumble musical Western (think a Looney Tunes version of Deadwood) that manages to be a madcap romp and, despite its overindulgences and low humor, a quite entertaining piece of ensemble work.

The play begins traditionally enough with Egeon (Michael J. Hume) getting arrested in a small town “west of the Pecos” for trespassing without any money to pay the fine. The Sheriff (Hassan El-Amin) sentences Egeon to death but is so intrigued by the story of his lost twin sons (along with their twin servants) at sea and Egeon’s quest to reunite with his family that he postpones the hanging for a full day (allowing the comedy of the play to unwind in this foreboding atmosphere).

To outline the rest of the twisted plot would be near impossible (OSF prints a handy flow chart in the program), but thankfully director Penny Metropulos added a narrator, José Luís (René Millán), to soften the script for ease of digestion. Luís is the audience’s genial tour guide; as such, he sometimes dumbs down Shakespeare’s play to the point of mockery, especially when he impersonates the Frito Bandito. Yes, be forewarned: Mexicans, Chinese, the obese, snake oil salesmen and more all become the butt end of jokes in this production.

As for the musical numbers (by Sterling Tinsley, with lyrics by Metropulos, Tinsley and Linda Alper; the trio who brought you last year’s hit-or-miss Tracy’s Tiger), most are welcome interludes between all the bustle, but some come off as a bit excessive and self-indulgent. (When Alper, who plays Emilia, performs a solo bit, the play feels paused so she can ham it up.) But COE’s real coup comes in its fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants action sequences (thanks to Movement Director John Sipes) that allow one to get caught up in the chaos of a highly confusing play but that drop back into balance at the sound of a gun. — Chuck Adams

 

Traditional Innovator A Q&A with OSF Artistic Director Bill Rauch

Organized Insanity OSF’s costume shop

Last Man Standing Othello on the Elizabethan Stage through Oct. 10

It’s All Just a Case of Mistaken Identity A Comedy of Errors on the Elizabethan Stage through Oct. 12

Postmodern Angst, Zany Style The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler at the Bowmer Theatre through Nov. 1

Man Alone, and Whiny Coriolanus at the New Theatre through Nov. 2

Bare Bones Our Town on the Elizabethan Stage through Oct. 11

People in Motion John Sipes moves, but not to the music

More reviews can be found in our online archives