At the sunset of their illustrious careers, the Lunts, one of the theater's fabled acting couples, attested to The Taming of the Shrew as their most treacherous endeavor. "There's very little there, and you have to work so hard to keep it going." However, next to The Comedy of Errors, an earlier Bardian frolic, that sendup of marital disharmony has the emotional complexity of King Lear.
The centuries have been less than kind to Shakespeare's youthful goose of Roman farcical antiquities. Take Rodgers and Hart's magnificent score for 1938's The Boys From Syracuse away from Errors, and all that remains is two sets of identical twins, a fishwife and some courtesans in a rondelay of mistaken identity.
It would take Merlin to hold this chaos aloft. Sadly, in the middle of a depression, such high-priced wizardry is hard to come by. So instead, Great Lakes Theater Festival has settled for the ill-advised, effect-for-effect's-sake machinations of that maladroit Gepetto, GLTF producing artistic director Charles Fee. Firstly, the director has yet to figure out how to calibrate his newly refurbished toy, the Hanna Theatre. As a prime example, he so continually employs the stage's magical hydraulics of instantly elevating in and out of sight for no discernible purpose that the mechanism seems to be guilty of overacting.
Similarly, Fee continues to overtax the exceptional yet limited talents of the company's two leading actors. Playing both young twins (roles usually allotted to separate performers), the mature Andrew May, whose gift for physical comedy has become legendary, is again permitted to run rampant without the discerning control needed to rescue what should be funny from being merely embarrassing.
His counterpart, the patrician Laura Perrotta, is once more forced into an unfortunate wig and ill-fitting role. In dominatrix garb and an ersatz Melina Mercouri accent, she makes us want to avert our eyes in regretful sympathy. Not helping matters is Fee's penchant for picking irrelevant settings out of a hat — here, it's Rio during some generic carnival, vibrating to the bossa nova beat of "The Girl From Ipanema." This only serves to make the setting and costumes appear to be wearing the competent cast, rather than the more desirable reverse. Approximately every 10 minutes, the action comes to a halt for another distracting samba. However, this is a contradictory case in which more distractions are better.