June 9, 2008 · Updated 2:58 PM
"For those staging A Comedy of Errors, the play's name may seem like a bad joke. A mistake is no laughing matter when it comes to maintaining the precision this slippery piece of drama demands. Our production is intensely disciplined, says Amy Thone, who plays the shrewish Adriana in the Seattle Shakespeare Festival's rendition that comes to the BPA Playhouse Friday. It's like a dance - nobody can afford to miss a beat. And Shakespeare's play certainly keeps audience and actors on their toes. His tale of Aegeon - a merchant of Syracuse, whose wife and twin sons, both named Antipholus, are separated from him and each other in a storm - goes from complicated to bewildering. The twins grow up in the warring countries of Ephesus and Syracuse until their paths cross later in life when the jealous Adriana mistakes Antipholus of Syracuse for Antipholus of Ephesus, her husband. Meanwhile, old Aegeon's search for his family leads him into captivity in the enemy land of Ephesus, and the riddling errors do not resolve themselves until Adriana discovers two husbands.On one hand, Shakespeare's romp is simply a story with a happy ending. On the other, the play charts such a journey of self-discovery for all on stage as to spark from the plot questions the characters are not sufficiently well-developed to answer. Small wonder Altwies, who plays Antipholus of both Syracuse and Ephesus, says he was relieved to find in director Danny Sheie a man who thought he knew the answers. At drama school, we'd been led to believe those sorts of directors were the devil, he says, but I was surprised. Thone has other sources of clarification at her disposal. As educational director of the Seattle Shakespeare Festival, she cites The Taming of the Shrew (in particular the shrewish Kate), Twelfth Night (another twin-trouble play), and even Hamlet (with his to be or not to be problems of identity) as plays that thematically develop the issues appearing in embryo in the earlier The Comedy of Errors. As to the question of why Aegeon gives his sons the same name, however, or why Shakespeare elaborates on the play that originally inspired his comedy with the addition of twin servants both called Dromio, she concedes, Shakespeare revels in confusion, almost at the audience's expense. She and Thone can only assert their faith in an audience's ability to suspend disbelief.There are holes in the plot, but we glide over them if you give us the chance Altwies says.The BPA Playhouse houses the Seattle Shakespeare Festival's production of A Comedy of Errors, at 7 p.m. May 18, with all tickets $10, and at 7:30 p.m. May 19-20, with tickets $15 for students and seniors and $18 for adults. Tickets and information: 842-8569."