You need heavyweight dramatic skills to wrestle with one of Shakespeare's complex tragedies. But if you're doing one of the comedies, especially the pun-filled type from early in his career, you mainly need nimbleness - nimbleness of lips, foot, mind and even wheel, as Collaborative Arts' incessantly mobile production of "The Comedy of Errors" proves.
Director Joe Copley emphasizes nuttiness, from silent slapstick between scenes to a comic jazz score that interlaces neatly with the twittering of sparrows nearby. (That music comes from Raymond Scott, whose snarky trumpet was heard on the soundtrack of Warner Bros. cartoons.)
Most sources list this as Shakespeare's earliest play, written in his late 20s and filled with a young scribe's energy. It's among his most derivative - he swiped ideas from the Roman dramatist Plautus - and he hurls jokes at you, end to end.
The plot, almost impossible to encapsulate, revolves around two sets of twins separated as babes: masters named Antipholus, who ended up in different Mediterranean lands, and slaves named Dromio, who went with them. (Can someone explain why a mother who had twin sons named both Antipholus? Or Dromio?)
A shipwrecked merchant of Syracuse, father of the Antipholuses, lands in Ephesus, where Syracusans have a price on their heads. He has one day to raise that bounty. Before he can be rescued, though, his sons (who have never met) get into hijinks with a gold chain, a courtesan and the unmarried sister of one Antipholus, whom the other Antipholus pursues.
For all the frivolity, Shakespeare has mildly serious things to say about the way masters treat servants and pre-feminist rights; the unmarried woman is happy in her spinsterhood, and the married one justly complains about subservience and inequality in wedlock. (Alas, "The Taming of the Shrew" was on the way soon.)
Collaborative Arts believes in casting that's not only color-blind but gender-blind. Thus golden-tongued Andrea King and Shon Wilson, ladies white and black respectively, run away with the show as the "male" Dromios. Adam Ewer, an actor new to me, has the largest part as Antipholus of Syracuse and handles it with aplomb, but the whole ensemble is solid.
A tip: Get to the Green early, to grab a good seat and see brief performances 45 minutes before curtain. Those range from storytelling to dulcimer playing; I caught The Chuckleheads, a zany improv group that established an appropriate mood.
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