“Ang Katatawanan ng Kalituhan” is Guelan Varela-Luarca’s Filipino translation of William Shakespeare's “The Comedy of Errors.” Dulaang UP opens its 41st season with this work of the Bard in observance of Shakespeare’s 400th death anniversary this year. The prospect of watching Shakespeare translated in Filipino may sound formidable, but as with my previous experience with Dulaang UP, they make sure we will understand the story as we will be entertained in the process.
Antipholus of Ephesus is a known and respected citizen of his city. His loyal but foolish servant Dromio is always at his beck and call. One day, Antipholus of Syracuse pays a visit to Ephesus, accompanied by his own foolish servant Dromio. The people of Ephesus mistake both sets of men for each other because they apparently looked exactly like each other. Even Adriana, the jealous wife of Antipholus of Ephesus, and her romantic sister Luciana also fell victim to this madcap mix-up. In fact, each Antipholus and each Dromio were themselves misled by their twin's identity. The situation would later escalate to crazy accusations of mental illness and demonic possession.
As with most Shakespeare plays, the first few minutes can be confusing as the complicated situation was getting set up. The kilometric Shakespearean lines seemed more complex when delivered in poetic Filipino (which the cast impressively delivered with no obvious line fumbles). However, once you get your bearings straight about who is who, as well as get used to the style of the language used by Luarca in his animated and sparkling translation, then you will definitely enjoy the rest of the riotous ride. The hilarious over-the-top situations of the second half (especially that nutty vegetable throwing scene and that psychotic witch doctor scene) really had me laughing out loud along with everyone else.
Paul Jake Paule and Jerome Rosalin played the two Antipholus, Paule from Syracuse and Rosalin from Ephesus. These two actors were quite different from each other in physical appearance and attitude so it was not too convincing that people were mistaking them for each other, even if they were wearing exactly the same clothes. Paule was very much in tune with the farcical nature of the play with his expressive and comical face. Rosalin was the more serious and physically agile of the two, and he was really funny whenever his character got annoyed or angry.
The comic highlights of the show though were care of the Dromio characters. Gabo Tolentino and Khen del Prado, played the two Dromios, Tolentino from Ephesus and Del Prado from Syracuse. In their slave garb, they could pass for a pair whom people could mistake them for each other. These two guys had exhausting, very physical slapstick comedy scenes that had the audience in stitches. Tolentino is the more histrionic of the two, recalling the flamboyant style of a young Roderick Paulate in his showy style. Del Prado is the more subdued actor of the two, but just as funny in his antics.
Gel Basa played the nagging wife Adriana with a certain Odette Khan vibe with her fierce communicative eyes and big frizzy hair. Jean Judith Javier played her sister Luciana. This is the first time I have seen a non-singing part for soprano Javier and she was quite the delightful comedienne. Mitoy Sta. Ana played the Duke of Ephesus, probably the only sober character of the show, the mediator amidst the mayhem. Greg de Leon played the Syracusan trader Egeon and Amihan Ruiz played the Abbess, both of whom will have their own big revelation moments at the end. The ensemble actors playing various people in the neighborhood, like the goldsmith, the merchants, the courtesans, the ugly kitchen wench and the witch doctor all had their turn to shine.
Director Alexander Cortez created a very lively and energetic, occasionally naughty, occasionally absurd, overall very entertaining show. Gino Gonzales' costume design with those geometric designs and bright colors really livened up the stage, along with Ohm David's complementary set design that seemed to be a colorful cartoon town come to life, so vibrant. Citations go to Meliton Roxas Jr. for his complex technical direction and lighting design and PJ Rebullida for his wacky choreography.