“How many fond fools serve mad jealousy!”
―William Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors
When are the mistakes of “fond fools” hilarious? When Shakespeare’s popular farce comes to Stapleton—with a gender-bending twist. “The Comedy of Errors’ main characters are twin brothers and their twin servants. We flipped it to be twin sisters and their twin servants, and it got even funnier,” said Timothy Orr, producing artistic director at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival (CSF).
The CSF brings Shakespeare’s light-hearted comedy to Stapleton’s Green in the 29th Ave. Town Center for free performances Aug. 11–13 at 7pm. “The Comedy of Errors is one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays—it’s pure comedy and farce—it’s so much fun,” said Orr. “We chose it for Stapleton because it’s very approachable—kids get it. It’s a good introduction to Shakespeare.”
The Comedy of Errors, one of Shakespeare’s earliest plays, concerns two sets of twins separated at birth. One set of twins encounters the friends and families of their twin counterparts, and a series of wild mistaken-identity mishaps ensue: a near-seduction; false accusations of infidelity, theft, madness, and demonic possession; and a wrongful arrest.
“The CSF performs this play every five or six years and this time we wanted to do something different,” Orr said. “Geoffrey Kent, the director, had this idea to reverse the genders, and as we read the script that way, it got really funny, though we didn’t change anything except the pronouns and some of the names.
“In the original version, men make jokes at the expense of women, so turning that around makes it more of a romantic comedy. In a seduction scene, where now the woman is the pursuer, we found we could take the comedy much farther without getting icky or creepy. Flipping the genders opens up opportunities for new jokes.”
Some of the lines take on a different flavor, Orr said. “In the original, a sister is told by her sister that men are the masters of women. Now that it’s brother to brother, the lines become totally flippant and progressive, like ‘Women can do whatever they want, so get over it.’”
The play is set in 1930s Paris, with sultry singing and cabaret nightlife, including a live accordionist playing French songs. The Parisian flavor is enhanced with bright, vivid costumes and design, including feathered showgirls, wandering mimes, bright red doors, and other colorful setting details. “Paris fits as a fun, romantic city and the music is from that time period,” Orr said. “We studied pictures of women from that era wearing pants and berets, and we went with that. It sets the female characters up to be both strong and funny.”
With a cast and crew of 30, The Comedy of Errors is CSF’s fourth annual production on Stapleton’s Green. “We love it,” Orr said. “It’s good old-fashioned Shakespeare in the Park, with people on blankets, and toddlers and dogs running around. The Stapleton people are so friendly and they look forward to their summer Shakespeare.”
The Comedy of Errors will run approximately two hours, including intermission. For more information, call 303.492.8008 or see coloradoshakes.org.