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Next week, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre Troupe’s dark brand of comedy will take a sunny southern California vacation. With exclusive touring performances at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica and a three-night schedule at UCSB’s Campbell Hall, the Globe’s production of “The Comedy of Errors” is back by popular demand.
The UK’s The Guardian reviewed the show as “quick-on-its-feet, clear-as-a-bell, boom-boom-funny!” This makes sense given that the piece is one of Shakespeare’s earliest plays — an unrefined, farcical precursor to his later comedies equipped with mistaken identities, adultery, slapstick humor, a myriad of inconspicuously sexual puns and scathing social commentary typical of the Bard’s work.
Following the absurd history of two same-named, identical twin brothers who were separated at birth and their respective servants (who, of course, also happen to be same-named, identical twin brothers separated at birth), “The Comedy of Errors” utilizes the comedic trope of utter confusion. When the love interests of the brothers, Adriana and Luciana, enter the scene, the only place to go is complete chaos.
“We set ourselves up to fail from the very beginning,” actress Dana Gartland, who plays Luciana in the Globe’s production, laughed.
However, Gartland said the play’s popularity isn’t completely because of its uproarious comedic value.
“It’s got a massive heart,” Gartland explained, “You get a little bit of everything. It’s about finding the missing part of yourself, whether it’s a twin, a partner, a husband or a child. Some plays are a gag a minute, and they’re funny, but you don’t invest in any of the characters. In this, everybody’s got their own dose of tragedy.”
Although Shakespearian drama may be the bane of high school seniors as they mentally amble through Hamlet in their English literature classes, it is the versatility in Shakespeare’s work that makes actors and directors alike choose the elusive mastermind over and over again.
Gartland personally testifies that just as ballet is the background of dance, Shakespeare (the man, the genre, the concept) is the backbone of theater.
“It’s one of most important tours to have as an actor,” Gartland said. “[The cast] will do modern plays and whatever comes our way, but it’s a good place to cut your teeth and learn your craft. If you can master Shakespeare, you’re on your way.”
The ability to “master Shakespeare” is an acquired talent that not even veteran Shakespearian actors can claim confidently. In fact, Gartland said actors often spend a week breaking down the text’s themes with directors, linguists and other resources in order to “dig out the meaning.”
“I’m certainly not in a position where, on a first read, I get everything … but you will, eventually,” Gartland said. “You try to explain what he means and you end up using so many more words than originally written. So actually, he was a real master at brevity.”
London’s Globe Theatre boasts a truly authentic, Elizabethan theatre experience. Given that the show’s tour covers the beefed-up beachside of Santa Monica and the glitzy party town of Santa Barbara, the floor of a raucous London amphitheater from the 1600s seems a bit far off. Still, director Rebecca Gatward’s production of “The Comedy of Errors” makes the staging seem faithful to its roots, regardless of the venue.
“We create all the music ourselves … It is simple story-telling on bare boards,” Gartland explained. “Everything we have with us, you can fit in a van. In terms of the kit we bring, it’s quite minimal and rustic. We can perform wherever we’re told to set up camp.”
For a glimpse of highbrow wit and some Elizabethan anarchy, see Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre Troupe’s production of “The Comedy of Errors” at 8 p.m. in Campbell Hall on Tuesday, Nov. 8, Wednesday, Nov. 9 and Friday, Nov. 11. I have a strong feeling you won’t regret it.
General admission is $35-55, and all students pay $18. For more information, call Arts & Lectures at (805) 893-3535.