My family has been going to performances by Shakespeare & Co. up in Lenox, Massachusetts for about twenty years now and always love it. A couple of nights ago, we saw a preview of Comedy of Errors. (Hint: It’s the one with the two Dromios, no Rosalind, and doesn’t take place in Verona.) I loved it just a little less than usual.
Shakespeare & Co.’s performances feel like Shakespeare as he was seen by his contemporaries: lively, bawdy, understandable. Yet, this performance wasn’t my favorite. Too much mugging, too broad, too hectic. Yes, it’s a farce with confusion piling on confusion. But there’s a difference between speed and timing. Nevertheless, saying it’s not one of the Company’s best leaves lots of room for goodness. The play is totally worth seeing. In fact, it was one of my son’s favorite performances. Plus, we saw the first preview (= beta, for you software geeks), so it’s undoubtedly even better by now.
I have an overall gripe, though. When we first started going, the performances were outdoors at the Edith Wharton manor, on the edge of a forest. When sprites are supposed to appear from the forest, they actually appeared from the forest. The depth of the scene was well worth the swatting of the mosquitos. But, a few years ago, the Company was forced to relocate. They’re now ensconced down the road on 65 lovely acres of forest and meadow, yet they seem to have no plans to resume the sylvan stage. The Founders Theater is not such a great space – avoid seats with low numbers because they put you at the top of the U that encloses the stage – and it’s inevitably indoors. Instead, the company’s director, Tina Packer (all hail!), is pursuing her obsessive dream of recreating the 16th century Rose Theater. Maybe that’ll be amazing. But the forest still beckons.
By the way, if you have a chance, go early and see “Shakespeare and the Language that Changed the World” (title approx.), a 45-minute piece that celebrates his words. Very funny and sometimes moving. Bring the kids.