The Chicago Shakespeare Theatre knows how to create a new twist on an old idea. They did so Friday night in their production of William Shakespeare's "The Comedy of Errors."
"Errors" is one of Shakespeare's simplest and shortest plays. Two pairs of twins begin life together. Two are well-born lords named Antipholus, while two named Dromio act as servants to the Antipholuses. At a young age, a shipwreck separates them. One Antipholus and Dromio settle in Ephesus, while the other pair settle in Syracuse. As adults, the four find themselves in the same city and cross paths repeatedly, which results in repeated mistaken identities and much slapstick humor. The script features variations on the same joke.
Rather than present the Bard's play directly, CST depicted a Hollywood studio filming an adaptation of "The Comedy of Errors" in London during the World War II German bombing of the city. We see multiple subplots within the moviemaking - the egotistical stage actor who feels the role of Dromio is beneath him; the director's wife, who is having an affair with the lead actor; parts that are filled by a standup comic and a pop singer to boost ratings. In between, we see the story of Antipholus and Dromio unfold.
This play within a movie within a story within a play makes Shakespeare's simple story more complex and more fun. A host of eccentric 20th-century actors portray eccentric 16th-century characters.
The play provides many laugh-out-loud moments as the outer story leaks into the inner story. The leading man's halitosis spoils a love scene. Debris from an air raid injures an actor, who must deliver his lines from a wheelchair.
CST founder and Artistic Director Barbara Gaines directed this adaptation, ending her longtime association with the Theatre. Ms. Gaines is stepping down this year.
She goes out on a high note.