In partnership with Mount Royal University, Theatre Calgary’s Shakespeare by the Bow (formerly known as Shakespeare in the Park) returns this summer with William Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors. Calgary’s scenic Prince’s Island Park hosts the production’s comical hijinks which are presented in the play’s original text, with the addition of several contemporary elements. Creativity is abound in Shakespeare by the Bow’s energetic production of The Comedy of Errors.
Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors tells the story of Antipholus of Syracuse (Joel Taylor) and his servant Dromio of Syracuse (Jacob Lesuik) who set out to find their twin brothers, from whom they were separated from at birth, in the city of Ephesus. Accompanied by their servant Dromio of Ephesus (Jeremy Hilsendager, Antipholus of Ephesus (Cole Hollinger) and his wife Adriana (Merran Carr-Wiggin) enjoy a rich lifestyle in Ephesus. A case of mistaken identity between the brothers and their servants, who are unaware of each other’s presence in the city, leads Adriana and others to mistake Antipholus of Syracuse for his twin brother. What results are the brothers trying to survive one hilarious mishap after another as they try to reclaim their lives and sanity!
Directed by Glynis Leyshon, this adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors is set in the 1920s, the age of jazz, gangsters. and flappers. Accordingly, the production features visually appealing, time-appropriate costumes (ex: pin-striped suits, short skirts, and cloche hats). The Roaring Twenties, a boisterous time period marked by extravagance, suits Shakespeare’s play well as the play is more concerned with pleasure than character depth.
The production’s set, on the contrary, features only what it needs in terms of set pieces. Because of the nature of outdoor theatre, the company cannot bring in large set pieces as one might do in a traditional theatre where the space and equipment are available. With this in mind, it is impressive what the production has done to work around this limitation with the set’s trap door that is designed as a large clock. Used for entrances and exits, the door is also cleverly employed as a set piece which the characters point to in this play that, in the text, occurs over a period of 24 hours. The benefit of a clean, simple set, here, is that it allows the actors more room to play.
Despite the heat typical of a summer’s evening, the actors commit to a very physical, animated performance style. Taylor, Lesuik, Hollinger, and Helsindager work well together in their respective pairings, matching each other’s energy with regards to the physical demands of their clowning. The ensemble cast is talented as well with their ability to create imaginative moments through movement like a ship being violently tossed around by an ocean storm.
Although, while the performances are solid, there are some elements that do not work so well in this production. While fun and adding to the fast-paced quality of the show, the appearance and use of sleek, modern motorized scooters looks very odd in contrast to the early 20th century clothing and props. Second, the company’s performance of “Sit down, you’re rocking the boat” (from the musical Guys and Dolls) disrupts the flow of the show. The choreography is okay, but the actors miss notes and seem to approach the number with little confidence. It makes for an awkward portion of the show that could be cut out entirely.
Overall, however, Shakespeare by the Bow succeeds in delivering a creative and fun adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors. The contemporary setting and lively physical comedy will be sure to entertain those unfamiliar with or hesitant to experience Shakespeare.
Shakespeare by the Bow’s production of The Comedy of Errors runs from June 25th to August 9th, 2014 at Prince’s Island Park. Admission is by donation. For more information, visit: http://theatrecalgary.com/plays/sbtb/more_info/