Two pairs of twins end up as two pairs of master and servant whose accidental meeting causes chaos in this classic madcap tale of mistaken identity.
Long before Disney’s The Parent Trap, there was The Comedy of Errors: Shakespeare’s early take on identical twins separated at birth and the mix-ups that occur when their paths cross later in life. In this case, a man is wrongly accused of missing dinner with his wife and dragged into an unfamiliar household while the real husband is locked out of his own home. Complicating matters further is that each man has a loyal, if at times dimwitted, servant who – you guessed it- is the long lost identical twin of the other servant. Confusion escalates in a series of scenes based on mistaken identity until finally the four men find themselves – and their estranged father – in the same place at the same time.
As with most of Shakespeare’s work, The Comedy of Errors lends itself well to a variety of interpretations. A Company of Fools is known for presenting over-the-top, high-energy, family-friendly, fun productions of Shakespeare’s more accessible works and The Comedy of Errors is no different. Taking a page from Dr. Seuss’ style-book in its set and costume design, this is one of the most colorful and silly shows I have ever seen. It is full of pratfalls and cartoonish humor that keeps audiences of all ages entertained. Don’t come expecting Elizabethan garb and lyrical prose; though the text remains true to its origin, this is an entirely re-imagined comedy complete with bright wigs, cross-dressing, and a delightful Where’s Waldo send-up. In short: The Comedy of Errors is a showcase of what A Company of Fools does best.
What I loved most about The Comedy of Errors is how comfortable the ensemble was with each other and their work. It’s readily apparent that everyone on stage is having a complete blast, especially when given the chance to improvise (tonight’s show featured a gummi bear bit that had me grinning ear to ear), and that kind of loving energy is infectious.
A Company of Fools has assembled a strong team but there were a few stand-out performances. Gabrielle Lazarovitz’s portrayal of Adriana, the wronged wife of Antipholus, was realistic and fiery. Lazarovitz made this character quick-tempered and just a little crazy so it was easy to see why nobody would want to cross her path. Katie Ryerson’s turns as mad-scientist Doctor Pinch and Italian mobster Angela may have been clichéd but they were funny and memorable nonetheless. It’s hard for me to say which interpretation of Dromio I enjoyed more between Scott Florence’s perfectly boisterous buffoonery and Geoff McBride’s more subdued clowning but suffice to say they were a highlight of an already strong show.
The Comedy of Errors is a simple story twisted and turned into a Saturday morning cartoon and I loved every minute. It’s clowning meets high culture in a park near you.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d like to hear what you think. Do you like your Shakespeare served straight or do you enjoy the Foolish take on tradition? Were the color-coded costumes clever or confusing? Is this your first out-of-the-classroom introduction to the Bard or are you a veteran of the summer Shakespeare scene? Join the discussion and leave a comment below!
The Comedy of Errors runs in parks across Ottawa until August 15th.