The opener to this season’s two-play Shakespeare in the Park series is perhaps one of the most approachable works of the Bard to ever grace the Delacorte. A tight 90 minutes total, the comedy — which is surprisingly staged less often than some of its counterparts — is easy to follow in story even when the language is less understandable. Audiences of all ages and all levels of exposure to theater or Shakespeare will still enjoy the hijinks of “Comedy of Errors.”
The plot follows the story of two sets of identical twins who both arrive in the same city at the same time — they’ve not only never met, but aren’t aware that they have brothers at all. Of course a hilarious series of mistaken identity shenanigans occur — here showcased as a high art in and of itself. In the current staging, director Daniel Sullivan puts the action in 1930s New York, with jazzy dancers, bluesy singers and imposing mobsters running the city.
Hamish Linklater takes the lead as Antipholus and his brother (for some reason, he uses the same name, if only to make the flip-flopping work). Jesse Tyler Ferguson is his faithful servant Dromio and takes the role of the clown in this work; he, too, plays his own same-named twin brother. The men are joined by the equally talented ladies Emily Bergl and Heidi Schreck, playing one man’s wife and her single sister. They, of course, get entangled in the confusion. One can probably guess how the romantic conflicts resolve.
With slapstick physical comedy and elevated, witty dialogue, low and high humor are played against each other in perfect harmony. The sets are simpler and more square than John Lee Beatty’s usual, but that really lets the action — which could otherwise be confusing — have all the attention. The music and dance interludes are also great fun.