Review by Alice Greenwald, PhD.
One of the best Zoom reading I’ve seen during this unique time was Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors presented by the Blind Cupid Shakespeare Company.
The performances are praise-worthy but it’s the production scheme that sets this production apart.
The Comedy of Errors, an early play of the Bard, is one of his most farcical and apropos for this company’s English Music Hall-style comedy motif. The pun-soaked script and use of mistaken identity – what became a staple of sitcom plots. It concerns two sets of identical twins separated at birth. Antipholus of Syracuse and his servant, Dromio of Syracuse, and Antipholus of Ephesus and his servant, Dromio of Ephesus. Needless to say, this incredible premise makes slapstick fights, sex-capades, insanity, and even demonic possession seem totally possible – and ample double-takes.
Beginning “on Zoom” to discuss the pandemic’s cancellation of their show, the company – appearing as themselves – discussing with disdain not performing and the lack of funds needed to do it live under other circumstances. This in-and-of itself was brilliant. An intimate editorial of the pandemic’s attack on the arts coupled with an extraordinarily veiled but effective fundraising pitch welcomes us into the production’s over-the-top storyline and allows us to accept the situation as opposed to another level of disbelief. Then an intentionally bumpy entrance at the beginning regarding subtitles wrapped the entire opening in a nice Monty Python-like bow.
We are then treated to a bilingual production that entertains and educates. Much of the well-trained and quite talented ensemble bounced back and forth between English and Italian creating the play’s necessary bi-coastal dynamic. Ample subtitles allowed the flow to not cease regardless of what tongue was uttering Shakespeare’s words, so one may focus on the artists’ interpretation with little impedance. This was a blessing on two levels: it was thrilling to watch an actor pour their souls out in humor or drama in Italian and watch perfect reactions from their English speaking co-stars – and visa versa. Secondly, it allowed some really fine performances to be totally enjoyed with little distraction. Notable were a stunning Stefano Guerriero, whose expressive countenance and powerful voice made full use of his setting. Gianluigi Calvani and Joe Staton who donated genuine comic timing and exuberance; Gilda Mercado, an actress obviously adept in film and stage work and possessing a true flair for Shakespeare; moved to-and-fro, leaning into the camera, maneuvered her very expressive face to ingeniously create joyous stage pictures and bright deliveries; Muge Karagulle – whose expressive face, and Frances Knight – whose vocal manipulations – was worth the addition.
But the star-turn was Alice Lussiana Parente who played BOTH Dromios and in BOTH languages. Zoom made it easy for the one actress to have some uproarious scenes with herself and even to be in group sections as both characters. Surely, in the 21st Century when CGI is de rigueur, this editing trick is accomplishable but the magic of seeing this tour-de-force performance lost no luster.
Director JT Stocks and the Blind Cupid Company figured it out. They took the medium of virtual and made it truly their own. Ironic, we credit Shakespeare with [re]creating the English language, thus we must credit Blind Cupid with [re]creating virtual theater.