BAILEYS HARBOR, Wis. (WFRV) – A camp version of a camp version of a camp play.
That’s Door Shakespeare’s take on William Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors” done virtually in a Zoom setup.
“Camp” = Tongue in cheek… or for the fun of it… or spoofy.
“Door Shakespeare” = A professional company that normally presents classical theater productions outdoors in the fresh summer air in Door County, except all its live, in-person productions were wiped out this year by the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s keepin’ on keepin’ on virtually.
The pay-to-view production that premiered Tuesday night online looks makeshift. The picture is fuzzy. Characters slide in and out of scenes. Inconsistencies abound.
One of the attractions of watching is akin to that of the lure of a road accident you happen upon and, as you slow to pass, you wonder, “How did that happen?”
In this case, massive headaches of directing and editing this thing are comical to imagine. And there is plenty that’s funny in the first place – Shakespeare’s clever tongue, the goofus story and sight gags.
“The Comedy of Errors” is the story of two sets of identical twins who are mistaken for one another. In a sense, this is a sitcom hit from 400-something years ago.
How Door Shakespeare’s production came to be is somewhat mythical. It has to do with the mystery delivery of a videotape of an episode of a cable-TV access channel show in 1984 (explained in an electronic program that comes with the price of admission). Back then, some local folks made up their own TV shows and put them on the air – like a group in Door County that used the format of “Hollywood Squares” as the starting point for an improvisational hour.
The current production translates “Hollywood Squares” to a Zoom format.
Easier said than done. Actors perform in different locations. All the separate lines have to be patched together as characters speak in separate squares. There are 16 characters… and five actors. The twin characters sometimes speak to one another. Sometimes, action happens from one box to the adjacent box – like a slap or the exchange of money or the passing of a note (a sight-gag musical note in this case). For the climax of the story, 12 characters are on the Zoom/“Hollywood Squares”-like screen.
Talk about nutty.
The cast is devoted. By golly, the players are going to play Shakespeare’s characters with mustard and emphasize words and expressions even though they’re probably alone in a room someplace acting to air.
Duane Boutté has a refined style of delivery as the Duke and knows how to be bollixed as the Antipholuses (Antipholi?).
The Dromios have a built-in ruggedness that Charles Fraser dishes out in scrappy verbal and visual humor, especially a hand gimmick he manipulates through.
The marriageable Luciana is portrayed by Rayne Kleinofen, who has a blast in mustache as the nasty Dr. Pinch.
Wary wife Adriana is portrayed by Linda Stein, whose side trips including r-r-rolling an Irish br-r-rogue as the nun.
Setting up the maze of a story as Aegeon is James Carrington, who is like Fourth of July fireworks as the strumpet.
Visual backdrops for scenes are blurry, though they can be made out to be such locations as a modern house, a shopping mall food court, a roller rink, a movie theater lobby and a game arcade.
The humor is wry and somewhat earthy in the first place. This production adds layers to both.
Michael Stebbins had to organize this somehow as director, and then Neil Brookshire had to piece all the pieces together. They had to be crazy.
The thing is like kids getting together to create a patchwork backyard play, only with a bunch of techie gear and thick books of instructions that come in six languages, each in indecipherable tech-speak.
There is a product at the end of a likability that is a matter of taste. At the core, it is bizarre fun and the stuff of legend a generation or two down the road.
Creative: Playwright – William Shakespeare; original adaptation – Door County Squares, Oct. 27, 1984; director, stage manager – Michael Stebbins; composer and sound designer – Ann Warren; recording, editing, animation – Neil Brookshire; producing artistic director – Michael Stebbins; managing director – Amy Ensign
Antipholus of Ephesus, Antipholus of Syracuse, Duke Solinus – Duane Boutté
Aegeon, Courtesan, Second Merchant – James Carrington
Dromio of Ephesus, Dromio of Syracuse, Gaoler – Charles Fraser
Luciana, Doctor Pinch, First Merchant – Rayne Kleinofen
Adriana, Angelo, Lady Abbess Aemilia – Linda Stein
Running time: One hour, five minutes
Remaining access: Through Nov. 16