BWW Review: The Stratford Festival Explores Gender Fluidity in a Clever and Funny Production of THE COMEDY OF ERRORS

BWW Review: The Stratford Festival Explores Gender Fluidity in a Clever and Funny Production of THE COMEDY OF ERRORS

On Friday night, a unique production of Shakespeare's THE COMEDY OF ERRORS was performed at the Studio Theatre-another production, which in any other year, would likely have been performed at the Tom Patterson Theatre, but I must say, it was neat to see it done at the Studio. Director Keira Loughran's production takes place in a completely gender fluid society-accepting of all sexual identities and orientations. Though potentially confusing for those who don't take the time to read the program liner notes, this twist proves to be quite inspired.

In the aforementioned liner notes, the Festival's Literary and Editorial Director, David Prosser comments on how in the play, the town of Ephesus is described by outsiders as being shady and full of sinful, deceptive people, and yet none of the characters from Ephesus conduct themselves in such a way at all. It appears, as is so often the case, that outsiders are simply confused and fearful of that which they do not understand. This is why Loughran's idea to fill this town with a society of people who are also so often misunderstood and to instead empower them through this strong and thriving society, is both moving and clever. This device adds an interesting layer, but still allows Shakespeare's hilarious play to be front and centre. I will note that as each character was introduced and many male actors, including the Duke (played by Juan Chioran) were wearing women's clothes, I was momentarily distracted while trying to listen for gender pronouns so that I could know what gender each character identified as. I then found myself reflecting on why this mattered to me, and realized it was mostly because I did not want to misgender anyone while writing this review. My next thought was that all involved would likely be less concerned with that and more concerned about me actually paying attention to the production in front of me!

Helping to bring the audience along into the world the director and company have created, are the costume and set design by Joanna Yu. The set is minimalistic but effective and the costumes are designed to sometimes be gender neutral and to sometimes help defy gender norms. They all look great.

The fully committed company is delightfully good. The two sets of twins at the centre of the play are Antipholus of Syracuse (Jessica B. Hill) and Antipholus of Ephesus (Qasim Khan) and Dromio of Syracuse (Beryl Bain) and Dromio of Ephesus (Josue Laboucane). In this production, each set of twins has a male and a female, and the females have disguised themselves as their male brothers. All four actors are excellent and play well off of one another as each character is constantly being confused for his or her twin.

Other standouts include Rod Beattie as a maid named Luce and as the conjurer Dr. Pinch-who has the audience in stitches with a hilarious physical comedy bit. Alexandra Lainfiesta and Amelia Sargisson are also great as Adriana and Luciana, sisters and love interests for the siblings Antipholus. Sebastien Heins is also enchanting as the Courtesan.

This production contains all the humour that one would expect from this play, but then also offers the opportunity for deeper thought and discussion long after the show ends. For those who have seen this play many times before, this is a unique and enjoyable way to see it through new eyes. Those with limited familiarity may want to review the liner notes in order to fully understand the intention behind the society they are about to enter, but no matter what, everyone will leave the theatre having been entertained by great Shakespearean theatre.

THE COMEDY OF ERRORS Continues in Repertory at the Studio Theatre until October 20th

Photo Credit: Cylla von Tiedemann

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From This Author Lauren Gienow

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