This year's Shakespeare in the Park production of The Comedy of Errors will be a little bit wilder and crazierthanks to the creative adaptation by Sean Graney, the founder and former artistic director of The Hypocrites theatre in Chicago. In 2004 Graney was the Chicago Tribune's Chicagoan of the Year for Theatre for his inventive and sometimes radical takes on classic plays like Miss Julie and Death of a Salesman.
CST's The Comedy of Errors cast member Mark Baer, who is Assistant Professor at Indiana University Northwest, said, "We study Graney in our directing classes because he has this great reputation as a bit of a rule breaker."
"His work started earning him a lot of attention," says CST member and Court Theatre Associate Marketing Director, Traci Brant. "Court Theatre was thrilled to have him direct a production of What the Butler Saw." Court then followed up Graney's hilarious treatment of that farce with a production of the two man quick-change comedy, The Mystery of Irma Vep.
In 2010, Graney adapted Shakespeare's shortest work--The Comedy of Errors--for Chicago's Court Theatre. To put a different spin on how the comedy is normally performed, Graney wanted to draw on the fun experiences he'd had with The Mystery of Irma Vep and Hypocrite's production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged and adapt his Court production to be performed by only six actors. He also wanted to develop the adaptation in a way that would allow his six actors to play and improvise with the material.
CST's production director, Lisa Formosa-Parmigiano, has chosen to use seven actors for The Comedy of Errors which still gives the players room to have fun with the material and the opportunity to perform the various quick-changes required in the Graney adaptation. "This production is particularly unique because it's an adaptation that combines slapstick humor, modernized language, and only seven actors playing the twenty roles in the script," said Formosa-Parmigiano.
Actor Eric Brant says that there are various challenges to creating this play for people to enjoy. He states,"I think that Graney has done a nice job of mingling the original text with contemporary dialogue that helps to make things more current and playful, but I also think it helps some of the more confusing aspects of the comedy more accessible."
Another aspect of Graney's adaptation that Lisa likes how it also incorporates a lot of audience interaction which was more common in Shakespeare's day. "There are improvised moments between characters and audience members I think will be interesting to experience each night." said Formosa-Parmigiano
Sean Graney's star has left Chicago and moved on to New York where the director is now stirring things up on Broadway. Fortunately, Chicago Street Theatre is able to take a crack at this irreverent director's take on Shakespeare's hilarious work to delight audiences young and old July 12th through the 26th.