John Cranford Adams Playhouse March 6-16, 2014
Based on a Roman comedy by Plautus and the inspiration for the 1930s musical The Boys from Syracuse, Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors is the featured production of Hofstra University’s 65th annual Shakespeare Festival, March 6-16, 2014, at the John Cranford Adams Playhouse. This is only the third time in the Festival’s history that The Comedy of Errors, one of Shakespeare’s most farcical plays, has been performed on the Hofstra stage. This year marks the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth.
Show times are Thursday, March 6 at 8 p.m.; Fridays, March 7 and 14 at 8 p.m.; Saturdays, March 8 and 15 at 8 p.m.; and Sundays, March 9 and 16 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $12, $10 for senior citizens and matriculated non-Hofstra students with ID. Members of the Hofstra community may receive up to two free tickets upon presentation of a current HofstraCard. Tickets are available at the Hofstra Box Office, Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-3:45 p.m., at 516-463-6644 or online at Tickets.com. Tickets will also be sold at the door; the Box Office opens 90 minutes prior to showtime.
A synopsis of The Comedy of Errors: Two sets of twins are born at the same time in an inn: one set to a wealthy merchant; the other to a poor family. The wealthy merchant Egeon takes the poor woman’s twins as servants for his own two children. In a voyage home to Syracuse, they are all separated and lost at sea. Twenty years or so later, one son and his servant set out to find their brothers. After five years everybody ends up in Ephesus. Syracuse and Ephesus are rivals in commerce and prohibit merchants from one city to set foot in the other. Therefore Egeon is arrested and condemned to death unless he can raise his ransom money by the end of the day. The twins constantly cross paths but never meet, are mistaken for one another creating pandemonium: marital confusion, arrests and attempted exorcisms. Finally, the truth is revealed, the twins meet, the family is reunited and Egeon is pardoned.
According to longtime drama professor Peter Sander, who directs this production, The Comedy of Errors is only one of two Shakespearean plays taking place in the course of a single day (the other is The Tempest). It features the familiar setting of a shipwreck, which Shakespeare uses in a number of his plays (including Twelfth Night, The Tempest, Othello) to initiate action, cause reversals and bring defeat or victory. Other themes The Comedy of Errors common to other Shakespearean works include the search for identity and an emphasis on money, seen as a resolution of life’s renewal and rebirth.
Each Hofstra Shakespeare Festival comprises multiple performances: the full-length Shakespearean play, a shorter dramatic piece and the “Festival Musicale,” a concert by the Hofstra Collegium Musicum, an ensemble from the Music Department devoted to the performance of early music. The Festival Musicale includes a chorus and ensembles of historical instruments. This year’s Festival Musicale, directed by Christopher Morrongiello, is Kemp’s Jig: Comedy in Early Music.
The companion play is Something Wicked, a one-hour version of Macbeth, an excellent introduction to the works of William Shakespeare, suitable for young theatergoers. This is the seventh year that a one-hour adaptation of a Shakespearean work has been performed as part of the Festival. Something Wicked was adapted from Macbeth by Hofstra Adjunct Professor of English Maureen Connolly McFeeley and is directed by Professor of Drama Ilona Pierce.
Kemp’s Jig: Comedy in Early Music and Something Wicked will be performed together at The Helene Fortunoff Theater in Monroe Lecture Center, South Campus, on Saturday, March 8, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $6. Members of the Hofstra community receive two free tickets with current HofstraCard.
There will be special performances of Something Wicked at the Emily and Jerry Spiegel Theater, South Campus (west side of California Avenue) on Monday, March 10, and Thursday, March 13, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $6. Members of the Hofstra community receive up to two free tickets upon presentation of a current HofstraCard.
The cast and crew of Something Wicked will also be touring local high schools in March. As with other companion play tours in the past, for many high school students this will be their first exposure to a Shakespearean production. The tour gives the Hofstra students the valuable experience taking a show on the road – and the tour is something they take charge of managing logistically and artistically.
Notable casts over the years have included Phil Rosenthal, the creator and executive producer of Everybody Loves Raymond; Tony-nominees Tom McGowan and Peter Friedman; film and stage actor Joe Morton; film and television actresses Susan Sullivan, Margaret Colin and the late Madeline Kahn; and Tony-nominated Broadway director Susan Schulman, among many others. Actors Steve Buscemi, Kyra Sedgewick and Brian Dennehy performed in the Shakespeare Festival High School Competition as teenagers.
Top image (l to r): Ryan Molloy, Brendan Hickey, Matt Engle, and Will Atkins