Beach House Theatre’s third season main production was, happily, much more comedy than error, bringing Shakespeare to Crescent Beach for another short summer season.
The Bard’s The Comedy of Errors (Aug. 12-17) offered continuing proof that Beach House’s minor miracle – creating convincing theatre in the company’s temporary tent auditorium on Blackie Spit – is not a fluke or a hallucination.
A lot of very hard work, starting with community fundraising by volunteers and the Beach House board and extending to all the actors and technical staff, went into this year’s production, co-helmed by artistic directors Candace Radcliffe and Rick Harmon.
By all accounts, the daytime, family-oriented production of the Three Munschketeers, featuring Matt Falletta, Courtney Shields and Meghan Somerville, and directed by Ian Harmon, was also a credit to the organization.
Sold-out performances prove that, once again, Beach House managed to bring in locals – some of whom might never have otherwise attended a Shakespeare play – to experience the immediacy of live theatre.
Radcliffe and Harmon and their dedicated cast and crew are to be congratulated for making The Comedy of Errors a light and lively entertainment that clearly engaged its audience and kept them entertained.
But while Beach House’s mandate includes a worthy intention to include trainee actors and community-based players, care should be taken – in future – that this does not result in an inconsistent product for the company’s relatively high ticket price.
While all of the players gave of their best for this show, The Comedy of Errors was a little uneven in casting and playing in a way that Beach House’s grand premiere in 2012, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, was not.
That play, granted, is very different, and much more spectacular in scope. Even accounting for the differences, Comedy of Errors’ paled somewhat in comparison, and the commendable company of supporting players also seemed a little thin on the ground, even though they did their energetic best to embrace the artistic decision to set the play in the Caribbean of 1725.
With due respect to the directors’ vision, while the central conceit was plausible – and undeniably arresting in its musical and dance interludes (particularly in the fine high-stepping of talented Aran Davison) – for this viewer, it never fully integrated with Shakespeare’s text.
Indeed, a barrage of inter-scene calypso music notwithstanding, there were times when we seemed to be watching one entertaining show, which would then be interrupted for another quite different, if equally entertaining, show.
Linda Weston’s costumes, however, were splendid; set designer Breanne Jackson made highly creative use of limited resources and the need for flexibility to support numerous scene changes; and the technical work, under the direction of Geoff McEvoy, and sound work, by Riley Leiper, was exemplary as usual.
The Comedy of Errors – in which a master and servant (slave) from Syracuse are mistaken for their like-named identical twins (also master and servant) in Ephesus is one of Shakespeare’s most farcical and far-fetched creations.
Most of all, it depends for many of its laughs on a finely-developed comedy-team rapport between two well-matched actors playing both sets of twins, and well-timed, almost Stooge-like cartoon violence in each master’s slapping and kicking of the hapless servant, as the confusion of identity gathers momentum.
Relative neophyte Aaron Holt (as Antipholus of Ephesus and Antipholus of Syracuse) is clearly a most conscientious, appealing and promising player. It’s unfortunate that he couldn’t help but be overshadowed, in this production, by the befuddled servant-half of the team (Dromio of Ephesus and Dromio of Syracuse), played by one of local theatre’s most skillfully comedic scene-stealers, James Walker.
Walker seemed to understand every nuance of plot and dialogue in this play, bringing a rare relish to Shakespeare’s often crude humour that made it work all the better. It is not unfair to say that much of the burden of this Comedy of Errors rested on Walker’s broad shoulders, and he carried it manfully.
Kudos, in this version, to both directors – and both actors – in creating viable distinctions between each twin that made the plot easier to follow for those unfamiliar with the play.
Olivia Lindgren did excellent work as Adriana, wife of Antipholus of Ephesus, nicely understanding the exaggeration of the play, but very clear in conveying the range of emotions of a woman whose husband, suddenly and unaccountably, denies their marriage.
Madeleine Tuer also delivered a fine performance as Luciana, having a lot of fun depicting the confusion of a woman whose brother-in-law has suddenly developed a shockingly inappropriate attraction to her.
That agreeable sense of enjoyment was also manifest in the appropriately broad playing of Riaan Smit as the drunken goldsmith Angelo, while Michael Bernard went to town as voodoo spell-caster Dr. Pinch and the ludicrous, conceited second merchant, over-the-top Spanish sibilance and all.
Luke Day offered a well-judged, well-enunciated, thoroughly sympathetic performance as the aged merchant Aegon, condemned to death for violating the ban on trade between Syracuse and Ephesus; the previously-noted Davison was effective as a bemused officer of the law; and Aemelia Ross, as Duchess Solinus, provided contrast as a representative of Ephesus’ humorless authority.
Krystle Hadlow, as the courtesan; Emily Brown, as the first merchant and messenger; Dianna Harvey, as Luce; Roger Hussen and Cassidy Johnson, as villagers; and Heather Harris, as the Abbess, all had their individual moments, as well as good teamwork in creating a small, but versatile, ensemble.