“The Comedy of Errors” – Utah Shakespeare Festival

This review aired on KBAQ July 28, 2014


Utah Shakespeare Festival
Cedar City, Utah

Each summer when most Valley theaters vacation, I try to locate nearby theaters with a diverse and impressively performed selection of productions.  This summer’s quest took me to the 53rd Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City where an unparalleled theater experience awaited me in the three impressively produced shows I saw – an updated version of “The Comedy of Errors” set in the 1849 Gold Rush, a new dramatization of Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility,” and a brilliant staging of Stephen Sondheim’s musical version of several popular fairytales, “Into the Woods.”  The productions were staged this season in two theaters, including the outdoor Adams Shakespearean Theatre that, while smaller, re-creates in meticulous detail London’s Globe Theatre where the Bard’s plays originally premiered plus an indoor space, the Randall L. Jones Theatre.  A third theater complex opens in 2016.

As demonstrated by the three productions I reviewed, the Utah Shakespeare Festival doesn’t just stage the Bard’s works.  And I saw only half of the six productions staged this summer at the theaters located on the Southern Utah University campus in this theatergoer-friendly city.  The other plays this summer included the history play, “Henry IV Part One,” and the comedies “Twelfth Night” and “Measure for Measure.”  An almost 70-person acting ensemble consisting of professional actors and student performers essay the roles in the six productions.

The zany and clever updating of the Bard’s well-worn “The Comedy of Errors” gave the play a new vibrancy when the impressive acting ensemble lit the show on comedic fire.  The play of mistaken identities tells of four children involved in a shipwreck who later find out they are from different families but are related in a way they never understood previously.  Even people who are not normally entertained by Shakespeare comedies were entranced by this delightful farce.  The production played before scenery that created the dusty western setting and historic costumes added to the pleasing visual pictures created by director Brad Carroll.

It’s hard to pick favorite performers in a company that flawlessly executed all “The Comedy of Errors” roles but Chris Amos was a stalwart Antipholus of Syracuse, Cassandra Bissell was superb as his hard-driving and opinionated wife, Adriana, and Eva Balistrieri was gutsy as her sister Luciana.  The two actresses played very different sisters a few hours earlier in a matinee performance of “Sense and Sensibility” that I will review July 31 along with “Into the Woods.”

Grade: A