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Author: Jill Kimball

CU Theatre stages Shakespeare’s farcical ‘Comedy of Errors’

The University of Colorado Boulder’s theatre season continues with “The Comedy of Errors,” a wacky, clever Shakespearean farce. The colorful, lively production, directed by Assistant Professor of Theatre Kevin Rich, runs March 14-18 in the intimate Loft Theatre.

One of the Bard’s funniest romps, “The Comedy of Errors” follows two pairs of twins who were separated from their siblings at sea. Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse travel across the Mediterranean to Ephesus, where their identical counterparts live—and a hilarious journey of music, magic and mistaken identities unfolds.

Rich, a Shakespeare expert whose research has explored performance practices in the playwright’s own time, will embrace the original setting of Ephesus, an ancient Greek city in present-day Turkey—but that doesn’t mean audiences should expect staid classical theatre.

“People are going to walk in and feel like they’re on a street corner in Ephesus,” he says. “It’ll be a bustling market setting, with a street musician and vendors.”

In Shakespeare’s time, plays were almost always accompanied by lively music, and Rich wants to embrace that tradition. He’s collaborating with Senior Instructor of Dance Jesse Manno—a talented  performer who specializes in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern instruments—so patrons can expect to hear everything from accordion tunes to folk melodies on the oud, a type of lute.

Another aspect of vintage Shakespeare Rich wants to explore? That special connection actors had with audiences 400 years ago. In Elizabethan times, actors weren’t playing to passive observers in a darkened room—they were breaking the fourth wall, addressing patrons directly and encouraging them to react rowdily.

“These plays were written to be performed and enjoyed, not analyzed,” Rich says. “If you approach Shakespeare from a 20th-century theatre perspective, you lose some of the authenticity. Performing in a black box theatre will allow us opportunities to shake off the formality a little.”

Rich also has a few more tricks up his sleeve—they involve actors playing more than one role, gender-bending and some unexpected sound effects—but he doesn’t want to share details quite yet. Just take his word for it: It’ll be a night of knee-slapping fun.

“When I was younger, I went through a phase where I was like, ‘I just want to do serious plays,’” he says. “Now, I think there’s room for all of it, and I’m ready to create a delightful night at the theatre. I think everyone could use a pick-me-up these days.”