Review: Shakespeare In High Park – Comedy of Errors (Canadian Stage)

Comedy of Errors

Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors takes to the al fresco stage at Toronto’s High Park ampitheatre

There’s something inherently cool about watching a play as the sun goes down and the stars come up. Even better when the play in question—in this case, Canadian Stage’s Comedy of Errors, one half of this year’s Shakespeare in High Park lineup—takes place over the course of a single day. It’s almost like you’re seeing time progress alongside the characters, which is an unexpected perk of seeing this particular play performed outdoors.

Thankfully, the beautiful outdoor venue isn’t the only perk of this fast and fun production.

Comedy of Errors is one of those plays that takes a while to get going. There’s a lot of setup of a fairly (enjoyably) ludicrous plot that involves multiple twins separated at birth and some political posturing about the local laws against merchants. It’s a lot of exposition right off the bat (though Allan Louis, who carries the burden of most of it, is movingly wounded as the grieving father) and it often makes for a slow start.

Once all the tracks are laid, however, the fun of Comedy of Errors comes in watching that train slowly but surely pick up speed until it’s fairly rollicking off the tracks. Canadian Stage’s version is a satisfying slow burn, chugging steadily along at a measured pace that gets more and more entertaining as it goes along.

The whole cast feels beautifully at ease with the poetic language, and it’s a solidly strong collection of performances that glide off each other like a well-oiled machine. The standouts for me were the two Dromios, here played by two female actors. Both Jessica Greenberg and Naomi Wright throw their whole bodies into their frantic, crude portrayals of the two twin servants, and there’s a convincing bawdiness to their performances that keeps things light without going too broad. Like the characters, though, I had a hard time occasionally telling them apart (at least from my spot on the hill).

At first, with all the black-cloaked figures sweeping across the stage wearing Venetian masks, I thought this production was going to really emphasize the (imagined) supernatural possibilities of the play. There are a few intriguing nods in this direction, but I was disappointed to see this emphasis dropped fairly soon—the black-cloaked figures disappear at one point and never return.

Without them, the show’s visual identity becomes a little less interesting, more generically Italian. The set is nice, but simple: a number of doors featuring images of Venetian canals. There’s a gondola that gets dragged across the stage a few times, but the production design as a whole seems more functional than memorable. Part of that is likely due to the constraints of the outdoor venue, but I was really intrigued by the initial staging with the black-cloaked figures and the unique emphasis they brought to the sorcery backstory of Syracuse. It’s too bad it seems to idle out.

The costumes, however, are the exception. The women’s in particular really pop on stage, with their bright colours and varied shapes; I drooled particularly over the gown worn by Christopher Allen as the Courtesan, which looks gorgeous on his towering form.

Despite some relatively minor quibbles, I consider Comedy of Errors a solid production that feels well-oiled and well-executed. It’s light and silly, but the gradual build from a single misunderstanding to complete fiasco is tightly directed; it’s a well-managed trainwreck that delivers strong laughs and likeable performances across the board.


  • Comedy of Errors is performed in repertory with Julius Caesar at the High Park Amphitheatre (1873 Bloor Street West).
  • Performances run until September 6th with rotating 8pm performances every day save Mondays.
  • Tickets are free for children 14 and under and pay-what-you can at the door for adults with a suggested contribution of $20. Advance tickets are $25 in advance and can be purchased online.
  • Seating is first come, first served.

Photo of Dalal Badr and Allegra Fulton by Paul Lampert.