|Photo courtesy the Strange Capers|
|The Comedy of Errors, in rehearsal.|
Shakespeare in the park is as much a part of summer as suntanning and cookouts, and the folks behind The Strange Capers want to make an experience for everyone to enjoy.
The company, now in its fourth season, presents The Comedy of Errors over the next several weekends, first in Bloomington at the Civic Plaza Amphitheater and then at Powderhorn Park.
"After we did Twelfth Night last year -- that's more of a romantic comedy -- we wanted to do something more physical," says Randy Reyes, the show's director and company's artistic director. "Comedy of Errors was something I wanted to do ever since I did it at the Guthrie [in 2002]. It seemed like a perfect park play."
"I knew that it was funny," Reyes continues. "And that there are challenges to it. It is a very physical comedy, and there is the magical aspect of this world. And I was also interested in the sweetness of the journey to find your family."
First up for the challenges was taking Shakespeare's full-length, five-act comedy and trimming it down to 90 minutes while making sure the story is clear for all audiences -- and also keeping it funny. A part of that is shaving the story down until you have just the meat of it. "We wanted to get the play back into the action. The more literary jokes are not necessary to get the story moving along," Reyes says.
Casting is also important. "Hiring actors who have good training and facility with the language is important. I was also looking for a clown; people who understand comedic timing and physical timing. Those can be a hard thing to find," he says. "A lot of time, the language gets lost in 'physical' productions. Sometimes you want to support it with a physical gesture. Other times, you want to leave the language alone."
Reyes has nine actors to play all of the various roles in the comedy, which hinges on mistaken identity times two. This includes Nathan Barlow (the Dromios) and Alex Brightwell, (the Antipholuses).
The key is to have "the audience, even the young ones, laugh at things because they follow the story, even if they don't understand every word," Reyes says.
According to Reyes, the outdoor setting actually is an aid for the language.
"The poetry fits the largeness of the space. Thoughts take longer to put together, and you need that time to communicate through the grass and the sound of the cars and of the airplanes," he says.
It also serves as a major inspiration for the shape of the show. There aren't set pieces. Instead, the scenes are defined by the spaces in the park. The company has rehearsed for the past several weeks on location, with added inspiration.
"We talk about the sky and you look up and there it is. We talk about the ocean and you can see the lake. It's all right there. We don't have to fake it, which is a thrill," says Reyes.
IF YOU GO:
The Comedy of Errors
2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Bloomington Civic Plaza Amphitheater
1800 W. Old Shakopee Rd., Bloomington
2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, July 7-15
2400 15th Ave. S., Minneapolis
Performances are given rain or shine
Free, donations accepted
1800 W. Old Shakopee Road, Bloomington, MN