Delighting thespians since the 16th century, Shakespeare is known as the greatest and most prolific writer in the English language. Countless renditions of his work find their way to the stage every year, and his catalogue has left an invaluable mark on the dramatic structure. His creations have found modern-day retellings through the infamous Ethan Hawke millennium film-version of “Hamlet,” the 2001 film “O,” and “10 Things I Hate About You,” which is based on “The Taming of the Shrew.”
Like many cities, Wilmington boasts an annual celebration of his work with Cape Fear Shakespeare on the Green (CFSOTG). In its 22nd year, his plays come to life at the Greenfield Lake Amphitheater, which has hosted everything from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” to “The Merry Wives of Windsor.” A free event, CFSOTG simply aims to satisfy long-standing enthusiasts of the Bard and introduce his works to newcomers. The Shakespeare Youth Company kicked off the 2014 season with “As You Like It,” which will play through June 12th. Now the adults have their turn, bringing to life one of Shakespeare’s early plays, “The Comedy of Errors.”
Director Rob Mann has been with CFSOTG off and on since its second season. He first directed “The Taming of the Shrew” as part of the third season, and even played Antipholus of Syracuse in Michael Granberry’s CFSOTG production of “The Comedy of Errors.” The Wilmington dramatist has worked in miscellaneous crew positions, directed productions such as “The Lion in Winter,” ”Shadowlands,” and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.” He’s also shown off his acting chops across Wilmington in plays like “Of Mice and Men” and “Around the World in 80 Days.”
Taking on Shakespeare always proves a fun challenge for Mann. A dedicated follower of the Bard, he praises the expanse of writing, even the lesser-known pieces which still captivate today.
“I enjoy how much of it is still relevant,” Mann says, “and with [his] comedies, how many of the jokes still work. It’s just fun to work on any show with good writing.”
“The Comedy of Errors” explores the tale of two sets of identical twins who were separated at birth. Mishaps revolving around mistaken identity ensue when Antipholus of Syracuse (Nick Reed) and his servant, Dromio of Syracuse (Patrick Basquill), arrive in Ephesus—home of their respective twins Antipholus of Ephesus (Luke Robbins) and his servant, Dromio of Ephesus (Alissa Fetherolf). The cast also comprises Ashley Burton as Adrianna, Tamica Katzman as Luciana, John Bailey as Asgeon, and Teresa Lambe as Emilia. Some newcomers and veterans to CFSOTG will render slapstick comedy with heart as they take on Shakespearean dialogue.
“It is, at its heart, a very funny play,” Mann details. “It’s got all the hallmarks of his later works: intricate wordplay, broad physical comedy, carefully crafted monologues, etc.”
CFSOTG’s previous production took “The Comedy of Errors” and placed it in the West; however, Mann and Cherri McKay, director of the youth company, have taken the setting back to its Greek roots. They crafted a Mediterranean port city version of Ephesus.
“It’s not a matter of ‘setting it apart’ from other productions as ‘making it our own,’ and shaping the story so that it comes across as clearly as it can to a modern audience,” Mann says. “This is doubly important any time you do a comedy.”
Utilizing bright colors and crafting set pieces that boast a European flair, they also incorporate bits of modernity to ensure the centuries-old play finds commonplace with the audience. Having previously worked in light design, Mann will be rendering a simple setup for this production. Tamica Katzman, who plays Luciana, will paint the set and do costume design. Given the play revolves around two sets of identical twins, wardrobe largely creates the likeness by dressing the actors in mirroring get-ups. The actors, too, have aided the process by carefully simulating like mannerisms to add to the physical comedy and also to complete the illusion.
“It is still going to require a certain suspension of disbelief on the part of the audience, but if we can get [audiences to] buy into the idea, lots of fun will be had,” Mann tells.
The Comedy of Errors
Greenfield Lake Amphitheater
1941 Amphitheater Dr.
Fri.-Sun., June 6th-8th, 13th-15th, Thurs. -Sun., June 19th-22nd, 26th-29th, 8 p.m. • Free