The Boys are Back
The Boys from Syracuse sings and dances its way into the Agassiz Theater this weekend. Directed by Rachel Eisenhaure '02, Rodgers and Hart's jazzy 1965 tribute to Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors uses the plot (and, in some places, borrows heavily from the text) of the earlier play. Two sets of identical twins-one the servant and one the master-are separated in a shipwreck during infancy. Their father/master, Aegean, dedicates his life to reuniting his splintered family. To complicate matters, he arrives in the forbidden city of Ephesus, for which he is sentenced to die. That very day, his son Antipholus (Ari Appel '03) arrives, similarly searching for his brother who, conveniently enough, is also named Antipholus. Thus the father, his twin sons and their twin servants-both named Dromio-are all thrown together within a city long associated with the magic arts. What could be simpler?
Aegean (Scott Rowen '02) sets the tone-slapstick with a dash of irony-with the opening number "I Had Twins." Though he quickly disappears, the high spirited melodrama of his performance hangs in the air throughout the first act. The plot develops humorously (if predictably) through a series of mistaken identities and mixed motivations. As Adriana (Brydie Andrews '01) tries to reclaim her rightful husband, she takes the wrong Antipholus and...well...ahem. When the visiting Antipholus meets Adriana's sister Luciana (Randi Zuckerberg '03), there's enough chemistry between them to start a pharamcuticals coroporation. Their "This Can't Be Love" duet is sweetly charming and a refreshing departure from the madcap hijinks of larger numbers.
As is often the case with Boys' Shakespearean counterpart, the Dromio twins easily walk off with the show. Their long-suffering, high energy bawdiness clearly sets the pace for the rest of the production. Luce (i.e., Mrs. Dromio of Ephesus), played by Susan Long '02, shares two of the most enjoyable comic duets of the show, "What Can You Do with a Man?" and "He and She." Her earthy sexuality is a delightful contrast to her husband's submissive neurosis. As Tallevi pines for his lost "Big Brother" in Act Two, he establishes their finest moment, the Twins' Dance ballet.
The ensemble, which is generally quite good, offers several standout performances. Heather Childs '02 (who also choreographed) and Colleen Gargan '02 simply sizzle in the elaborate dance sequences, while Alexa Fields '01 is delightful as Fatima, the courtesan/bookkeeper who just isn't quite right for "the business." The 11 o'clock number goes to the Head Courtesan, Matt Romero '02. "Oh, Diogenes!" launches a tap marathon sure to rev the audience up for the pending finale.
Sassy, sexy and fun, The Boys from Syracuse is clearly a showcase for the performers. The set is functional, though it serves mostly as a backdrop for the principal action taking place downstage. Excessive, complicated scene changes somewhat impede the action, but Rodgers' incidental music keeps the audience's attention. The sound design offers a couple of surprises, but tech is generally very minimal, giving the performers an opportunity to strut their stuff.
Embracing the campy operatic parody style of the early '60's, Boys makes no pretensions to be anything other than entertaining. But then again, if you are this entertaining, why bother?
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