‘The Comedy of Errors’ at The Baltimore Shakespeare Factory

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No need to throw tomatoes – even though you’re allowed – at this Shakespearian troupe that has a great passion for William Shakespeare’s craft. In a matter of twenty hours and a week later, the cast of The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare has rehearsed five times, blocked the show, and managed to create beautifully adorned period costumes. In the truest sense of tradition, The Baltimore Shakespeare Factory adheres to the way Shakespeare produced a show in his time. Additionally, the plot of The Comedy of Errors is a fast-paced, upbeat comedy with mistaken identity that makes for a lot of humorous antics.

Antipholus of Syracuse (Zach Brewster-Geisz) is an intense young man who is also very lonely. Perhaps his feelings for Luciana fill the void while he travels the world with his slave, Dromio of Syracuse trying to find his long-lost brother and mother. This character feels he has no identity without his family even though he was raised by his father, Aegeon.  Brewster-Geisz’s costume is a mirrored image of Antipholus of Ephesus, consists of a black tunic, dark gray pants, and black leather boots. In the course of the show, swords become a part of their ensembles.

Full Cast 1 and 2: Back row from left to right: Chris Ryder(Aegeon), Hannah Fogler (Second Merchant) Caitlin Carbone (Dromio of Ephesus), Chelsea Blackwell Dromio of Syracuse), Erin Wagner(Angelo), Katherine Vary (Duke Solinus). Front Row L to R: Tegan Williams a Luciana, Ben Fisler as Antipholus of Ephesus, Zach Brewster-Geisz as Antipholus of Syracuse, Barbara Hale (Adriana). Photo by Will Kirk.
Full Cast 1 and 2: Back row from left to right: Chris Ryder (Aegeon), Hannah Fogler (Second Merchant), Caitlin Carbone (Dromio of Ephesus), Chelsea Blackwell (Dromio of Syracuse), Erin Wagner (Angelo), and Katherine Vary (Duke Solinus). Front Row L to R: Tegan Williams (Luciana), Ben Fisler (Antipholus of Ephesus), Zach Brewster-Geisz (Antipholus of Syracuse), and Barbara Hale (Adriana). Photo by Will Kirk.

Chelsea Blackwell’s Dromio of Syracuse, is terrific with her animated expressions and slap-stick actions that add to the comical aspects of this character. Her sarcasm is perfect in timing and quite hilarious as is her jester-like costume, comprised of olive green, maroon and gold pantaloons, tights, a white billow blouse and a patterned vest that does not match. Dromio of Ephesus (Caitlin Carbone) wears the same costume and is just as animated as she entertainingly imitates ape-like movements while diffusing some intense situations.

Antipholus of Ephesus (Ben Fisler) is handsome and charming as the twin brother of Antipholus of Syracuse (Brewster-Geisz) and the son of Aegeon. Fisler is strong with this character and talented at imaginative movement, such as knocking on a door that really isn’t there. Antipholus of Ephesus is a well-respected merchant in Ephesus and Adriana’s husband. Fisler also doubles as Gaoler.

Adriana (Barbara Hauck), the wife of Antipholus of Ephesus is one pouty mess. Hauck really puts her chutzpah into this character for she is a fierce and extremely jealous woman. Hauck pulls off temper tantrums in style as she huffs and puffs, stomps her feet, and even shrieks without making Adriana totally unlikable. Yet she is stunning in a satin white ball gown fit for a princess that is heavily but tastefully beaded with pearls. Her hair is swept up in a bun and jeweled.

Luciana (Tegan Williams) is Adriana’s unmarried sister and the object of Antipholus of Syracuse’s affections. Wearing a beautiful satin baby blue skirt with a puffy white blouse, dark blue laced vest, and a snood over her bright red hair, Williams is lovely as Luciana. This character is far from high-maintenance, unlike some of the other female characters.  Williams brings a certain poise to this character that counter-acts Adriana’s behavior.

Aegeon (Christopher Ryder) delivers a seriously lengthy monologue and plays this character as sad and indeed he should be. He feels the loss of not having half his family and as the show begins, he has been sentenced to death. Dressed in a mustard colored tunic and black tights, he gives a good fatherly performance. Ryder doubles as Luce and comically stands-out in this role as Antipholus of Ephesus’ enormously fat maid and Dromio of Ephesus’ wife.

Angelo (Erin Wagner) in her short blonde wig and gold costuming goes with the fact that this character is a goldsmith. The New York accent is funny ha-ha irony as well since “he” is from Syracuse (get it?). As the show progresses both Wagner and Katharine Vary as Duke Solinus pull it off with their accents and makes it work for these kooky characters. Wagner over accentuates her mannerisms that allows this character to lean toward the tough side. As the Courtezan, donning long red tresses, Wagner is a comical and yet sultry at the same time. Her third character is Doctor Pinch, who is known as the schoolteacher, conjurer, and would-be exorcist. Wagner has an exaggerated scene at the end of the show that is just laugh-out-loud. Vary’s Duke is a nice guy and a just ruler and she portrays this character on the soft side. Duke’s tunic is mauve, her blouse is white, and her trousers are a shimmery olive green. Vary also takes on the roles of Balthasar, who is a merchant in Syracuse, and the role of Officer.

First Merchant, an Ephesian friend of Antipholus of Syracuse, the Second Merchant, a tradesman to whom Angelo is in debt, Aemelia, Aegeon’s lost wife and Servant are all played by Hannah Fogler. Even though these are considered secondary roles, Fogler has honed her craft and to master each character in order to support the cast. As the Second Merchant, Fogler wears a striking maroon and gold coat that is trimmed with fur.

The cast gets the credit for directing themselves as well as designing their own costumes. And their set…there is no set other than the permanent balcony that accompanies this space. Jen Schiller is the Production Manager. The Baltimore Shakespeare Factory dwells within St. Mary’s Church and is exquisite. The stain glass windows lend to the historic atmosphere along with the lantern-like lighting and wooden church pews.

The Baltimore Shakespeare Factory’s The Comedy of Errors is an impressive production and lots of fun. Their passion for William Shakespeare’s work is undeniable. Get thee to this church on time to see this wonderful production! The Bard would have been proud!

Running Time: One hour 45 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission;

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The Comedy of Errors plays through December 22, 2014 at The Baltimore Shakespeare Factory performing at The Great Hall Theatre at Saint Mary’s Community Center-3900 Roland Avenue, in Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call 410-921-WILL (9455), or purchase them online.

All ticketing arrangements for Boordy Vineyards performances on Sunday, December 7th at 2 PM;Sunday, December 14th at 2 PM; and Sunday, December 21st at 2 to be made directly with Boordy. Call (410) 592-5015 for reservations, which are strongly recommended as limited seating is available. Boordy is located at 12820 Long Green Pike, in Hydes, MD 21082.