Shakespeare’s comedies are just a little extra special when served up outdoors. Perhaps it’s the combination of birdsong, green grass, the occasional scent of auto exhaust, and the bemused glances of passersby that lends a little extra magic. That peculiar chemistry works in Classical Actors Ensemble’s favor as it mounts a summer production of “The Comedy of Errors” in various Twin Cities parks.
This frothy play employs two sets of identical twins to create a situation ripe for confusion. Just to amplify the mischief, each set of twins shares the same name. The plot is by-the-numbers farce as Antipholus of Syracuse and his trusty servant Dromio arrive in Ephesus, unaware it’s the hometown of the twin brothers from whom they were separated at birth.
Mistaken identities lead to marital discord, brawls in the street and diagnoses of madness before all is happily resolved and the families are reunited.
Director Marika Proctor gives this “Comedy of Errors” a breezy and irreverent treatment, with plenty of timely allusions and a few modern additions to the text. A couple of brightly hued huts, a string of lights and a single door frame constitute the set and provide space for quick changes. Props are bare-bones: a necklace, a piece of cloth, a rope. Fast-paced scenes are sandwiched between pop numbers as an ensemble of 10 actors takes on a variety of roles.
Jake Sung-Guk Sullivan does double duty as the two Antipholuses, portraying one as an empty-headed Valley boy and the other as a New Jersey tough guy. Marci Lucht has glorious fun with the role of Adriana, the wife of Ephesian Antipholus, imbuing her with plenty of feisty Jersey girl attitude. Nissa Nordland Morgan provides backup as the more restrained Luciana, seemingly happy to play second fiddle to her glamorous sister. Peter Simmons offers up a dry and world-weary performance as Egeon, father of the two Antipholuses.
The actor having the most fun here, however, has to be Timothy Daly as the two Dromios. Berated and put upon by both of his masters, he bounces from one bewildering mishap to the next with all the exuberance of a clumsy puppy. He’s at the heart of the production’s funniest scene as he simultaneously bars the door of Ephesian Antipholus’ house and tries to break it down on behalf of his master. It’s a giddy piece of nonsense conveyed through little more than lightning-fast changes in accent and body language.
This production of “Comedy of Errors” is Shakespeare for the groundlings: fresh, sassy and accessible.
Lisa Brock is a Twin Cities theater critic.