Slapstick and an epidemic of mistaken identities, plus wonderfully witty (and sometimes wicked) wordplay, fueled the fun in The Comedy of Errors by English dramatist William Shakespeare, which the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival of High Point, NC performed on Oct. 4th and 7th in A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh. The handsomely appointed two-story Renaissance set by Brad Archer, the artful illumination by lighting designer Todd Wren, and the colorful ancient Roman attire by costume designer Laura Simcox added pizzazz to the lively production, staged with brio by director Ron Bashford.

Years before the play begins, twin brothers named Antipholus and their slaves, also twins and both named Dromio, are separated by shipwreck. Antipholus of Syracuse (David Foubert) and his slave Dromio (Willie Repoley) grow up in Syracuse with Antipholus’ father, peripatetic merchant Egeon (Allan Edwards). Meanwhile, Antipholus of Ephesus (former Raleigh Ensemble Players actor and staff member David Harrell) and his slave Dromio (Bradley Brown) grow up in Ephesus. Eventually, Antipholus of Syracuse decides to journey to Ephesus, which is hostile to all things Syracusan, in hopes of finding his missing brother. Somewhat later, his father Egeon follows him to Ephesus, but is immediately arrested on orders of Ephesus’ officious governor Duke Solinus (John Woodson) and given one day to pay an enormous fine or face execution.

The Comedy of Errors is the story of what happens when Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse belatedly arrive in Ephesus, and unknowingly turn the town upside-down as they are repeatedly mistaken for Antipholus and Dromio of Ephesus. The dueling Antipholuses of David Foubert and David Harrell and the twin Dromios of Willie Repoley and Bradley Brown are crisp comic characterizations, as is the Egeon of Allan Edwards and the Duke of John Woodson.

Also amusing are Sara Valentine as Adriana, the bewildered wife of Antipholus of Ephesus, and Gisela Chipe as her sister Luciana, for whom Antipholus of Syracuse falls head over sandals and woos, creating a big crisis in the household of Antipholus of Ephesus. Other crackerjack comic characterizations include Graham Smith as Dr. Pinch the exorcist, Lucius Houghton as Angelo the campy goldsmith, and Rhyn McLemore as a feisty Courtesan.

Comic cameos by Catori Swann as an Officer of the Duke; Lesley Hunt as an Abbess; Ali Bayless as Luce, household servant of Antipholus of Ephesus; and Mark Lazar as Another Merchant also deserve mention.

With its earthy humor and hilarious comic hijinks, The Comedy of Errors provided a welcome diversion for Triangle audiences. Shakespeare once again proves the timelessness of his justly celebrated scripts.

North Carolina Shakespeare Festival: NCSF Study Guide: [inactive 10/07]. Shakespeare Resources (courtesy the University of Virginia Library Electronic Text Center): [inactive 3/10]. E-Text (courtesy UVa): (1623 First Folio Edition) and (1866 Globe Edition).