Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 31, 2010

The Comedy of Errors

Shakespeare & Company, Lenox, MA
through September 4, 2010
by Shera Cohen

One of The Bard’s funniest plays takes the Bernstein Theatre, or rather the circus stage. All within the confines of a colorful, yet small, circle are 12 actors portraying 20 characters living in two cities with an ocean between them. Such is “The Comedy of Errors,” a fast-speed farce with (no surprise here) mistaken identities. Shakespeare and this Lenox troupe have double the work and double the pleasure with their story of two sets of identical twins – one a master and the other his servant. Directors Dennis Krausnick and Clare Reidy have successfully replicated comedy d’arte.

Sad is the dad who lost his wife and sons in a shipwreck. Sad is the servant who must marry the kitchen-maid whose body is “spherical, like a globe,” and sad is the mistress whose husband loves her sister. Yet, this is a boisterous comedy. The laughs increase with the addition of a medley of strange props (a chain gets the biggest laughs), a transvestite prostitute, some liberties with the script (2010 references), and pratfalls galore. Oftentimes, it seems that actors will crash into walls as they run at breakneck speed into the circus circle, and then leap out. But Shakespeare & Company actors are pros, so not a single knee was scrapped by this young cast – all members of the Center for Actor Training’s Performance Intern Program.

And, for something on an even lighter note, if that’s possible…

The Amorous Quarrel, through August 28, 2010

This time it’s Moliere’s broad comedy of love, disguise, mistaken identity (again), jealousy, and slamming doors. Every character is dim, except the servants – it is they who steal the show.

“Quarrel” is very much an ensemble cast, as is “Errors.” While the language is an English translation of Moliere’s French (with adaptation by director Jenna Ware), and “Errors” is Shakespeare’s own, both plays are extremely accessible for young audiences and their chaperones. Many jokes are double entendres that kids will not understand, but adults will. One special aspect of all of the plays performed in the tent stage of the Rose Theatre is the songs – each original for the particular play, with lyrics to pay attention to get the laugh.