Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors” — which opens the 25th anniversary season at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival in Garrison on Saturday — is far-fetched.
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OK, it’s downright loopy.
Twin boys (both named Antipholus) have twin servants (both named Dromio).
A shipwreck splits them: One Antipholus and his Dromio servant land in Syracuse; another Antipholus and his Dromio land in Ephesus.
They strive to reunite. When they finally share the same space — unwittingly — it sparks all sorts of mistaken identities, an angry wife, jealousy, rage, more mistaken identities, money getting in the wrong hands and more mistaken identities.
At the center of the action are the servants, Dromio of Ephesus and Dromio of Syracuse, who bear the brunt of their masters’ rage.
Under the tent at the Boscobel Restoration in Garrison, the roles go to festival regulars: Gabra Zackman is Dromio of Ephesus and Nance Williamson is Dromio of Syracuse in the production, directed by Kurt Rhoads, Williamson’s husband, another festival favorite.
These are servants who suffer greatly at the hands of their masters, played by Michael Borrelli and Cold Spring’s own Lucky Gretzinger.
“I wind up getting beaten in every single scene,” Zackman says with more than a hint of mock indignation.?“(Williamson) gets beaten once, ferociously. But I get beaten in every … single … scene.”
Did Rhoads plan that?
“Without question,” she deadpans.
It is a running gag — how will Dromio get it this time? — and the audience’s reaction will tell the actresses how they’re doing.
Can they play the Dromios too big?
“We’re going to put that to the test,” says Zackman, who last year, as Kate in “The Taming of the Shrew,”?burned her bra and chased the cast with a chainsaw.
The world of the play lends itself to oversizing, Williamson says.
“The idea is that everyone is in error. It’s a comedy of errors. We’re all errors. It’s a dark circus world of things not quite right. So we’ve been trying to figure out what our problem is, what our freak is.
“One of Kurt’s favorite movies is ‘Freaks,’ a black-and-white dark 1930’s movie of circus life. It’s interesting to have that darkness influence this wacky, light play that is full of rhyming couplets and very tight language set on a ridiculous plot line,” he says. “You have this technically muscular language in service to a ridiculous plot.”
Zackman, a Mamaroneck High School graduate, says that the slapstick is all well and good, but there are deeper themes at work here.
“There’s a beautiful part at the beginning where Lucky’s Antipholus comes out and talks about what he’s seeking, that he is seeking his other half. And it ends that way, with the two of us saying we came into the world as brother and brother and let us go out hand in hand, not one before the other. So there’s literally finding your other half. There’s something beautiful in that.”
“There’s also a healing at work here,” Williamson says. “I don’t want to give too much away, but there are people who have deformities or problems and then, when they find love, they are healed by it. Hopefully that will be fun and sweet.”
And not at all far-fetched.
“The Comedy of Errors” Opens June 18, runs in repertory with “Around the World in 80 Days,” (opening June 25); and “Hamlet” (opening July 2). Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, Route 9D, Garrison. $21 to $60. 845-265-9575. Go to the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival website.
Photo by Tania Savayan: Nance Williamson, right, as Dromio of Syracuse and Gabra Zackman as Dromio of Ephesus rehearse a scene from “The Comedy of Errors,” which opens the 25th season of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival on Saturday. The rehearsal took place at the Atlantic Theater’s rehearsal space in Manhattan.