I saw Seattle Shakespeare’s production of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors last Sunday and, as always, it was delightful. This is a fantastic group and I always look forward to their performances.
The Comedy of Errors was Shakespeare’s first comedic play, probably performed first in 1592, after the Henry VI trilogy and Richard III. It is almost certainly derived from Menachmi of Plautus, another play based on identical twins and mistaken identities. Shakespeare doubled down by creating two pairs of twins who could not only confuse other people but encounter alternate versions of each other. As one expects from the genre-bending Shakespeare, there are serious threatening elements incorporated in the story, including a man seeking lost family members who is under threat of death throughout the play.
That tells you a bit about the plot but there’s a lot more going on than simply a few plot elements acted out onstage. This is a VERY lively and witty play. There is a lot of rhyme play, banter between characters (particularly the Antipholuses and Dromios) and in many performances, physical slapstick.
Seattle Shakespeare upped the ante by having aerialist and performance artist Lara Paxton set a trapeze disguised as a clock with a pendulum into motion. And the two Dromios were played by Kevin Kelly and Arjun Pande, two gifted slapstick comics. Not mentioning the cast is not meant to slight them because they were uniformly excellent and kept this pot boiling throughout the show. I do need to comment on Linda Morris’s performance as well…I thought that I recognized her as Goneril from last year’s King Lear and my wife and I found ourselves sitting next to her parents, who proudly confirmed that. Seeing her brilliantly carry off two parts that were so different was a real treat!
If you haven’t seen performances by the Seattle Shakespeare Company, do yourself a favor. They are definitely an under-appreciated cultural treasure!