The Comedy of Errors is the junk food of Shakespeare.
It’s best enjoyed for what it is without thinking too much about what exactly you’re digesting. In contrast to Hamlet that has led to centuries of debate about good and evil, The Comedy trades complexity for light humour and gets you home before dark — it’s Shakespeare’s shortest play (Hamlet, by the way, is his longest).
Here’s how it goes: Identical twin brothers who share the same name (don’t ask why), raised with identical twin servants, also with matching names. But just after birth, they’re involved in a shipwreck. The mother rescues one son and servant duo, the father saves the other two, but they wind up in different countries and the twins never see each other again — until 25 years later, where the play begins.
The brothers, Antipholus (both played by Jeffrey Theriault), and servants, Dromio (both Julian Cervello), unknowingly all end up in the same city. There’s mistaken identities all around, with a jealous wife who thinks her husband is possessed because he claims not to recognize her, while a mistress believes she’s the source of the man’s seeming madness and admits this to the wife — oops. Money purses and jewelry ends up in the wrong hands and nobody can explain what’s going on.
The audience, of course, knows exactly what’s caused the confusion and gets a good laugh as the chaos unfolds.
The chemistry between Theriault and Cervello in their dual roles is what makes this show a success. The two play off each other in quick slapstick scenes, turning the show into a physical comedy that even those who have trouble following Shakespeare’s old English prose will appreciate.
Director Clayton Jevne of Victoria’s Theatre Inconnu keeps prop use to a minimum and trusts the audience to imagine that the lawn of Camosun College is a palace hall or a public place, following the prompts of a woman dashing across the stage with a placard announcing the current location.
This is a great show to take advantage of the Victoria Shakespeare Society’s free tickets for children under 12. Many youngsters in the crowd the night I attended seemed enthralled by the action. The single, linear plot is easy to follow and, like all Shakespeare’s comedies, there’s always a happy ending. M
By Sam Van Schie
The Victoria Shakespeare Society’s Shakespeare in the Summer festival runs until Aug. 13 at Camosun College’s Lansdown campus, showing Hamlet and The Comedy of Errors. TIckets online at Ticket Rocket (ticketrocket.org), by phone (250) 590-6291 or at the door.