The Annex Theatre is an intimate space. The weathered wooden theatrical house is one of Toronto’s oldest theatre establishments, built in 1888, which is rather fitting for a Shakespearean tale. The Randolph Academy has given The Comedy of Errors, Shakespeare’s classic farce, a modern spin in their 2016 Toronto Fringe Festival production, A Glass Hive: aka the Comedy of Errors.
Whenever I see a Shakespeare play I enter with trepidation. Often, actors overact the Shakespearean language and add strange emphasis to the rhythmical meter, making it difficult to connect to the rich, intricate dialogue.
When the program stated that A Glass Hive: aka the Comedy of Errors was adapted from the original work, my weariness only heightened. But I was pleasantly surprised by the adaptation, and direction of the play by Bruce Dow in particular.
The play focuses on two sets of identical twins who are separated at birth, but are unintentionally reunited, causing a “comedy of errors” to ensue. The various themes of death and personal identity were extracted from the original work and brought forth adeptly in this modern adaptation.
Dow has added in the character of Death, which provided an intriguing layer to this farcical play. It gave the work a deeper meaning, as Death made all the characters confront the lives they live. This resulted in a more existentialist take on this play, as it evaluated what these characters hold sacred in their everyday lives.
The stage was adorned with mirrors that characters would peer into from time to time, with Death giving hand mirrors to certain characters. The mirrors added an compelling element, strengthening the theme of identity and how the two sets of twins view themselves in contrast to how others view them.
But what Dow utilizes most brilliantly is his ensemble. The cast is in their final year at the Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts’ Triple Threat Program, which explains why the chorus singing was so good.
The fine actors who portrayed the two sets of twins–Dromio of Ephesus (April Wong) and Dromio of Syracuse Taylor Priel), as well as Antipholus of Ephesus (Samantha Jamieson) and Antipholus of Syracuse (Sabrina Shallop)–played their respective roles charmingly. Their comedic timing and ease with the language was apparent, and I felt that the actors understood what they were saying. This seems like a strange thing to mention, but too often, actors speak Shakespeare as they think it should be said, instead of understanding the prose as if it were regular, human speech. Accessing the subtext of the dialogue may seem like an obvious objective for the actor, but it is rarely mastered. In this case it was.
A special mention must also be made to Madison Haste, who played Pastor Pinch to perfection. Haste’s eyes would become larger as her character’s absurdist speeches became increasingly more ridiculous. Her ramblings elicited some of the loudest laughter from the audience.
At all times the various characters were constantly entering and exiting the stage, with minor characters remaining on stage to look at themselves in the mirrors or witness the action unfolding before them. The staging provided the performance with a fast-paced energy which suited the comedic style so well.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed another Shakespeare play, but this time it was due to Dow’s innovative, yet non-invasive adaption. The first night of this show was sold out and I suspect it won’t be the last, so I urge you to buy your tickets soon.
- A Glass Hive: aka the Comedy of Errors plays at the Randolph Theatre. (736 Bathurst St.).
- Tickets are $12 at the door and in advance, and can be bought or from the Fringe Club at Honest Ed’s Alley, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never permitted.
- This venue is wheelchair accessible.
- The performance is not accessible for non-English speakers.
- June 29th at 6:30 PM
- July 2nd at 12:00 PM
- July 4th at 5:00 PM
- July 6th at 11:00 PM
- July 7th at 7:00 PM
- July 8th at 1:45 PM
- July 10th at 3:30 PM
Photo of April Wong, Taylor Priel, Sabrina Shallop, Samantha Jamieson by Darlene Spencer.