ORLANDO — While there are a lot of creative ways to stage Shakespeare’s immortal plays, setting the Bard’s work in a Jazz-filled New Orleans may be one of the hippest and most enjoyable.
Orlando Shakes’ current production of The Comedy Of Errors works so magically that it’s almost hard to imagine the original was set in the Greek city of Ephesus. The Shakes’ ever-talented set designers worked wonders on this show, fully capturing the well-known architecture of the French Quarter in a way that seems entirely fitting to this story about mistaken identity among two sets of twins. With Mardi Gras loudly happening all around them, it’s easy to forget New Orleans wasn’t Shakespeare’s original choice for location.
But it sure does work beautifully.
What is Shakespeare’s Comedy Of Errors?
One of Shakespeare’s earliest and shortest plays, The Comedy Of Errors is a farcical comedy about two twins accidentally separated at birth, who come together after a series of very zany occurrences. This play is known for its broad humor that includes slapstick, puns and plenty of hilarious confusion.
The production’s director, Jim Helsinger, certainly latched onto a smart idea when he focused on the setting. New Orleans becomes the place where our four twins find adventure, romance, and some hardship — until, of course, they finally discover one another in a side-splittingly funny ending. The French Quarter in the 1920s actually feels like the perfect setting, since the play has the feel of a classic French farce.
Added to that is the Shakes’ masterful set design, which recreates not just the ambiance and look of the French Quarter, but also some of the homes inside it. You’re ready to hitch a ride to the real thing by the time the show is over.
Then there’s the casting. Andres Enriquez as Antipholus of Ephesus and Walter Kmiec as his twin Antipholus of Syracuse look astonishingly similar here in the way their outfits and hair styles so perfectly match that you truly believe they’re twins; the same can be said of Robbie Rescigno as Dromio of Syracuse and his twin Dromio of Ephesus, played by brother Paul Rescigno. All four actors have an invigorating talent for broad slapstick comedy, and they play these roles to perfection.
Supporting roles are first rate as well, including Roberta Emerson as Adriana, Regina Fernandez as Luciana and Anne Hering, hilarious as a feisty nun. The production moves along at lightning speed, with lots of intricately staged slapstick to marvel at.
Between the New Orleans vibe and the stellar performances, this is as good a way to stage Shakespeare’s comedies as it gets.
Where Can I See The Comedy Of Errors?
The Comedy Of Errors is being performed now through Oct. 1 at Orlando Shakes, 812 E. Rollins St. in Loch Haven Park. To purchase tickets, call 407-447-1700 or visit https://www.orlandoshakes.org/show/the-comedy-of-errors/ The show runs two hours with a 15 minute intermission, and the Orlando Shakes staff will be handing out beads to anyone who wants to get into the Mardi Gras spirit.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright, and author of the book A Christmas Eve Story. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.