ExitStageLeft Productions has a treat in store for fans of outdoor theatre, with their pirate-themed take on The Comedy of Errors offering a full sensory experience of Shakespeare’s “shortest and silliest play.”
The company’s fourth annual Shakespeare in the Park show has its first-ever staging in Centennial Park, and the move has plenty to recommend it. The built-in grass amphitheatre in front of the gazebo is one obvious advantage. For this particular production, having the harbour as backdrop is also ideal for setting the scene as the Caribbean pirate stronghold of Port Royale.
Director Jeffrey Renn has made a clever move by transporting the play’s setting from the Classical Greek city of Ephesus to its New World shenanigans. The errors on which the comedy rests have to do with two sets of adult male twins who were separated at birth in a shipwreck, sending one Antipholus and his man-servant Dromio to Great Britain and the other set to Cuba. They meet up at last in the latter set’s home in Port Royale, where the arriving men are mistaken for the inhabitants — not only as a pair by the people that live there but even at times by each other.
Since the audience has to buy into the twins’ extreme identical nature for the plot to work but still be able to tell the actors apart in order to follow it, extravagant costuming is a great strategy. Thus sisters Christina Penhale and Sarah Grindler, who have similar features but quite different heights, become mirror image Dromios with their pirate dreadlocks and colourful knickers. The pair exhibits a matching gleeful commitment to their characters, as well, being the main drivers of the comedy with their constant beatings and disgust with masters who have been with them since birth.
Antipholus of Great Britain is played by Peter Hoskins, who has been one to watch since his GISPA days but probably finds his best footing in comedic parts. Hoskins’ natural antic energy suits his befuddled character, who can’t understand why the residents of Port Royale keep treating him as if they know him — even calling him by name and handing over sums of money — and is hilariously unsettled by the roving gang of singing pirates.
The Comedy of Errors returns to Centennial Park for four shows running this Thursday, July 4 through Sunday, July 7 (with the final show a 2 p.m. matinee). Tickets are available at Salt Spring Books or at the gate.
Note: The play is child friendly but there are some suggestive lines and adult language.