After driving down to beautiful Cold Spring, NY to see the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival’s production of Hamlet, my family and I returned for this season’s production of Comedy of Errors.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the play, it’s a fast-paced whirlwind of mistaken identities, lots of merry violence, and confusion in epic proportions. I was looking forward to seeing this play – and although HVSF did not disappoint, I was a little put off at how gimmicky it seemed.
The acting, as usual, was outstanding. All of the actors were genuinely excited about what they were doing, and never gave the appearance that they were locked into comedy-mode. The beginning, for instance, had a very somber tone – a tone that was echoed again in the last scene, bookending the play beautifully. The energy in the tent was palpable – the audience clapped along to songs, laughed at the outrageous costumes, and “awwwed” at the play’s touching reunion.
The two main characters, identical twins both named Antipholus (and ignorant of each others’ existence), did an excellent job of straight Shakespearean acting, while the other characters – especially the two Dromios, who were a laugh a minute! – provided the zany, off-beat humor that makes Shakespeare plays so loveable. But I have to say, not all of it was up to usual HVSF par.
The ‘theme’ that was adopted this year was along the lines of a freak show in a circus. Adriana had a beard, Luciana was a mermaid, one of the minor characters had lobster claws, etc. In my opinion, it was a bit distracting and detracted from a funny play that didn’t need the ‘help’ of these attention-grabbers. But I should mention that I’m a pretty hardcore Shakespeare fan; for families who are going more for entertainment than scholarly enrichment, these quirks definitely give the show its own flavor.
Comedy of Errors was full of laughs and certainly worth a trip out to Boscobel – and a little something different than what HVSF usually produces.