The Comedy of Errors by the Oregon Shakespeare  Festival at the Elizabethan Stage/Allen Pavilion in Ashland, Oregon,  15 June- 12 October 2008

 Geoff Ridden
Southern Oregon University

Geoff Ridden. "Review of The Comedy of Errors by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival at the Elizabethan Stage/Allen Pavilion in Ashland, Oregon, 15 June- 12 October 2008." Early Modern Literary Studies 15.1 (2009-10) <URL:>. 


Directed by Penny Metropulos, Assistant Director Rebecca Easton, Scenic Design by Michael Ganion, Costume Design by Paul Tazewell, Lighting Design by Robert Peterson, Music composed and directed by Sterling Tinsley, Lyrics by Penny Metropulos and  Sterling Tinsley (additional lyrics by Linda Alper), Dramaturg Jeff Rogers, Voice and Text Director Louis Colaianni, Assistant Music Director Darcy Danielson, Movement and Fight Director John Sipes, Assistant Fight Director U Jonathan Tuppo, Music Assistant and Vocal Coach Kay Hilton, Choreographer Suzanne Seiber, Stage Manager D Christian Bolender, Assistant Stage Manager Melisse L Wanke, Casting Nicole Arbusto & Joy Dickinson. 

With Hassan El-Amin (Duke) Michael J Hume (Egeon), Mark Bedard (Antipholus), Jeremy Peter Johnson (Antipholus of Syracuse), Tasso Feldman (Dromio), John Tufts (Dromio of Syracuse), Miriam A Laube (Adriana), Emily Sophia Knapp (Luciana), Todd Bjurstrom (Nell and Bronc, a cowboy), Linda Alper (Emilia), David Kelly (The Colonel), Armando Duran (Doctor Pitch), Rene Millan (Jose Luis), Joshua Wolf Coleman (Deputy), Cristofer Jean (Li Wei, a Chines Merchant), Kjerstine Anderson (Liberty, a Scout), Anil Margsahayam (Chance, a gambler), K T Vogt (Starr, a dancehall gal), Soneela Nankani (Grace, a dancehall gal), Eddie Lopez (Grady, a cowboy), Mariko Nakasone (Daisy, a young girl)


  1. In many respects it is difficult to review this production for a journal concerned with early modern literary studies, because so much of the text was not Shakespeare. The setting was the American West, to which you can go from Syracuse, but which has no place called Ephesus, apparently, since the word was never uttered in the performance, nor did it appear in the programme (Ephesus, Tennessee, apparently does not count). Readers will see from the cast list above that roles were added which do not figure in Shakespeare's play, and, in some cases, it was hard to see what they added to the performance, or even to work out who was who.

  2. The programme credits the director as having adapted the play, but it included a far more substantial number of non-Shakespearean scenes than I would expect in something described as an adaptation, and numerous non-Shakespearean lines and jokes. For example, in the second half of the play, one character recommends a particular eating establishment to another, with a warning to beware of the 'deceitful beans' which 'talk about you behind your back'; I have a concern that there were people who left the theatre believing that Shakespeare wrote this joke, as there was nothing to indicate that he did not. There was a running gag about the law 'West of the Pecos' and the repetition of the theme song for Doctor Pitch (changed from Shakespeare's Pinch) whenever he was named (which was more frequently than in Shakespeare's play). Less drastically, we had 'buck', 'dollar' and 'nickel', and 'Canadian winter' for 'Poland winter' in III.iii; I had no objection to any of those adaptations. The production also included allusions to a range of theatre, film and television; there was a reference to HMS Pinafore and another to The Simpsons:  and I am told that there may have been references to Peter Pan, Deadwood, Sweeney Todd and Hairspray too (Nell/Luce who is usually offstage appeared here as a man in a fat suit).

  3. Most prominent among the added characters was the Troubadour, Jose Luis, who opened and closed the play.  Rene Millan was very good in this role, intervening to turn a number of soliloquies into dialogues.  But the inclusion of his opening scene undercut the impact of Shakespeare's own text and made it difficult to work out which was Dromio and which Antipholus when they eventually made their appearance. Both Dromios were well played, and there was some excellent physical comedy from John Tufts, but neither Antipholus was engaging; Antipholus of Syracuse surely has to have charm, but despite the excellent singing voice of Jeremy Peter Johnson, charm was missing from his performance.

  4. The insertion of the Troubadour into III.iii, in which Dromio describes Nell to Antipholus, was a successful departure from the text, as was the moment in V.i, when Adriana's long speech to ‘Duke’, recapitulating events, was shared with Luciana. In each of these cases, there was a vitality inserted by the involvement of the extra character.

  5. Many other alterations were less successful. I have no objection to the inclusion of song - after all, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s version of the play (directed by Trevor Nunn, with music by  Guy Woolfenden) won an Olivier Award for best musical in 1978 - but it followed Shakespeare’s text, and even the lyrics of its songs were based on Shakespeare, as was also the case with the 2004 version of this play staged by this company indoors at the Angus Bowmer Theatre. This was not the case with the songs in this production.

  6. This production decided that Egeon should gamble to find money to pay his ransom (rather than ‘beg’), and we saw him do just that during the course of the play – the least obtrusive of the new sub-plots added in this adaptation. Dr Pitch was given extra space in this version, and the role of Emilia was completely altered: instead of being an Abbess who appears only in the final scenes of the play, she became a saloon-keeper who was there from the very start. This made a nonsense of the ending; in Shakespeare’s play, Emilia does not meet either Antipholus until one of them enters her abbey; in this version she has been a public figure for years, and both of her sons frequent her saloon, yet she has not recognised them.

  7. This was an outdoor production, and I was there on the last night, which included a touching ceremony closing the theatre. The set was impressive, but made little use of the Shakespearean tiring house, except that Egeon gambled on its very top level. It used the entire auditorium for the entrances and exits, but that virtue degenerated into a vice in the second half when the cast was reduced to a great deal of pointless running about.

  8. One change which might not have mattered at all grated with me. The dispute between Antipholus and Angelo in Shakespeare’s text is to do with a chain. In this version it became a ring, simply because the Second Merchant of Shakespeare’s text became a Chinaman, and so an offensive and cheap word-play on ‘ring’/’ling’ could be introduced. I am astonished that his company could stoop so low. The casting of this character also allowed the introduction of another running gag about fortune cookies, which again was entirely extraneous.

  9. In many respects this was a fun evening, and the audience enjoyed it, but it was not Shakespeare, and should not have been advertised as such. Why not simply do The Boys from Syracuse?  

Works Cited



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