Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Inventive cast imbues comedy

'Comedy of Errors' opens in Ketchum

Express Staff Writer

Becky Larson (the waitress) prevents Keith Moore (Antipholus) from giving Scott Creighton (Dromio) a nasty thump on the head in a scene from this weekend's performance of "The Comedy of Errors." Photo by Jim Britt

Two sets of twins! Separated during a storm ravaged sea voyage! Looking for each other at the same time! In the same place! With the same names! It could only be William Shakespeare, he of the mistaken identities, multiple births and love gone wacky.

"The Comedy of Errors," the play partially described above, will open in the Forest Service Park in Ketchum at 6 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 24, and run through Sunday, Aug 27, and Friday, Sept. 1, through Sunday, Sept. 3.

The story is thus: A merchant from Syracuse, Egeon, has come to Epheus in search of his wife and one of his identical twin sons, who were separated from him 25 years ago in a shipwreck.

The other twin, who grew up with Egeon, is also traveling the world in search of the missing half of his family. At the time of the shipwreck the twins had as companions identical twin slaves named Dromio. Arrested upon setting foot in the city due to a ban against travel between the two rival cities, Egeon begs for mercy by telling his sad tale. He is granted a day's reprieve.

Helmed by Ashland, Ore.-based director Bruce Wallace Hostetler and produced by the Sun Valley Shakespeare Festival, the play is aptly named. It is also very well cast with veteran Shakespeare actors, including Patsy Wygle, Keith Moore, Claudia McCain, David Blampied, Scott Creighton, Jana Arnold, Jamey Reynolds, Robert Rais and Freddie Harris.

Hostetler, who is here for his third summer of Shakespeare, has set the tale in an island in the Caribbean in the early 1700s.

"The golden age of piracy in the Caribbean," Hostetler said. "Winkie McCray, the costume designer suggested it first. It needs to be a dangerous location because we need to believe being a stranger is dangerous. We needed a place with a unique style of dress, so that strangers would look out of place. It all seemed to fit really well. It's also a confusing location."

The set, designed and built by Patty and Pete Ahrens, looks like a maze, which the cast can move in and out of. Hostetler said this allows for great sight gags.

"The actors have been really inventive," he said. "I love it. It's absolutely a director's dream to come back to a cast you know. I asked Keith and Scott to play younger then they are because I knew what they're capable of. They can do it. Keith is the straight man. Straight men are the pacing push and drive. The comic does riffs on that. Keith's a strong enough actor. I knew he could do that, and I knew Scott could be the comic."

Hostetler laughed with a big grin at the quickly passing idea that Creighton couldn't have played the comic. With his newly shaved head, Hostetler looks impish like someone with whom it would be fun to put on a show.

In fact, this ability to be charming and open to actors and their inventiveness has propelled him further than just the world of Shakespeare. This past year, he wrote and directed a children's opera in Medford, Ore. and directed some new work at the Ashland New Plays Festival. He directed "Kindred" for the Insight Out Theatre in Portland, the Ashland High School's production of "Guys and Dolls." And for the Oregon Conservatory of Performing Arts, he directed "Romeo and Juliet."

"The more I do this the more I realize how much I like working with kids," he said. "Reading Shakespeare is boring, but theatre is alive.

"I'd love to put on Shakespeare for people who have no idea who he was. That's what he did. Shakespeare was writing for the masses, who paid their penny and stood to watch and laugh at the idiots doing pratfalls."

So that will be us, laughing at the antics of the twins, the confused townspeople and the nonstop Shakespearean comic touch.


Sun Valley Shakespeare Festival present "The Comedy of Errors," 6 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 24 through Sunday, Aug 27 and Sept. 1 through Sunday, Sept. 3 at the Forest Service Park, Ketchum.

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