THE COMEDY OF ERRORS by William Shakespeare, directed by Kelly Thornton, with Kevin Hanchard, Alex Poch-Goldin, Anthony Malarky, Bradley Brackenridge, Christine Brubaker and Niki Landau. Presented by CanStage at the outdoor Dream Site (High Park). Previews through July 1, opens July 2 and runs to September 3, Tuesday-Sunday 8 pm. $15 (suggested minimum), 14 and under free. 416-367-1652, www.canstage.com.
SEE MORE HOTSUMMER GUIDE LISTINGS, EVENTS, and FEATURES! http://www.nowtoronto.com/hotsummer/
Shakespeare's The Comedy Of Errors is a farce, with slapstick and other physical comedy the main order of the day.
But the version that Kelly Thornton is directing for CanStage -- this year's Dream In High Park -- has a deeper dimension as well.
In this tale of two pairs of twins, masters and servants, confused with each other when one set arrives in the other's hometown of Ephesus, wives, friends and the law get mixed up in hilarious shenanigans over the course of a day.
"Kelly calls it a comic sandwich," says Christine Brubaker, who plays Adriana, the wife of Antipholus of Ephesus. "The meat of the piece is big and outrageous, over the top in places.
"But the bread that contains the fun is about truth, recognition and redemption. That's where the real heart of the piece lies."
Even with a serious subtext, the actors intend to play the comedy broadly, with the outdoor setting providing some extra licence. Set in the near future, the production features what Brubaker calls "cheeky costumes" that help the performers nail their characters.
"Both sisters have a sense of privilege that's linked to their enjoyment of intrigue," suggests Niki Landau, who plays Adriana's sister Luciana. "Because these girls have nothing else to do, they're involved with the drama of their lives."
"I see them as the Bush daughters, with their own weird morality," smiles Brubaker. "The result is kind of like Ab Fab meets Desperate Housewives."
The play begins with the arrest of the merchant Egeon, a father who's lost his two sons (both named Antipholus) as well as his wife. Because there's enmity between his home, Syracuse, and Ephesus, he's condemned to death unless someone pays a steep fine.
Cue the mix-up between the Antipholi masters and their servants, both called Dromio.
"Rather than looking at the play as being about the search for your identical twin, we're playing with the idea that it's a search for a missing piece of yourself," offers Landau.
To complicate the comic action, Antipholus of Syracuse, mistaken for his married twin, falls in love with Luciana; she's understandably dismayed when her "brother-in-law" comes on to her.
"There's a level at which the two sisters, despite their extremely different personalities, are one person, split apart."
Luciana, continues Landau, is very feminine, the kind of woman who favours pink.
"She thinks about the world as a controlled place, but her vision is untested by experience. Luciana is virginal, a little scared of sex, and has a real sense of decorum because her sister's world is so disruptive. I think she's part of the new religious right at the start, but realizes later on that her true duty is to her sister."
Adriana, on the other hand, with a philandering husband to contend with, is "highly proprietorial," counters Brubaker.
"She's not surprised that he's screwing around on her, but it's painful. She's a passionate woman, even a drama queen, who loves the game of the fights she has with Antipholus of Ephesus.
"At the same time, she's completely aware of the societal permissiveness that gives men, but not women, the right to do what they want. I don't think her railing is shrewish, because it's justified.
"There's not a real happy ending here; she has to live with that rage at the end of the play. The bed that Adriana and her husband make isn't going to be that soft."