Lovers of slapstick, fast-paced plots involving repeated instances of mistaken identity and the bard himself have a chance to see a classic as the Houston Shakespeare Festival presents Comedy of Errors.
Racheting up the farce and confusion factor is that in this production, two actors — Andrew Garrett and Crash Buist — will play both sets of twins (they are usually played by four actors) who were separated shortly after birth by a sudden storm that caused their ship to wreck.
Garrett plays the twin brothers Dromio of Syracuse and Dromio of Ephesus, who are servants to their twin masters Antiphious of Syracuse and Antiphious of Ephesus played by Bruist. Antiphious of Syracuse has decided to find his brother and it's when he arrives in Ephesus that mayhem ensues.
Garrett and Buist are both graduates of the University of Houston's Professional Actors Training Program, have worked together before and say they enjoy the comedy — although Garrett says he's the one getting beat up throughout this outing. Describing his twins Garrett says: "The circumstances for both of them are very similar. They're both servants, They both get beaten up by the person that they serve."
"I think one time it must have hurt my hand," Buist responds.
The difference between the sets of master and servants is that the Syracusean pair are warmer and friendlier to each other as compared to the Ephesusans, both say.
Buist describes performing Shakespeare as "one continuous muscular event." Now professional actors, both have acted in the Shakespeare Festival several times before, called back by Artistic Director Jack Young. What makes this more challenging than usual, they say is when they come off stage they have to remember which twin they are supposed to be next, what part of the stage they have to be on, and what their next lines are. "Am I warm or am I cold? Am I rural or am I urban?" Garrett says.
In this version, the wife of Antiphious of Ephesus is pregnant. "This increases the humor in the marital strife," Buist says.
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Shakespeare is meant to be performed rather than just read, both agree. The beauty of doing Shakespeare at Miller Outdoor Theatre, they say, is that people can just be walking by Hermann Park and be drawn in by the sounds and sights coming from the stage.
For the past three years Buist has lived in Los Angeles acting, writing, producing and directing in film and television. His family lives in Houston so this gives him a chance to come back and see them. For the last three years Garrett says "I've either be on a tour or I've been living in New York." And in New York he's been working with Titan Theatre Company.
"In this cartoon universe it should lend itself to humor rather than a glorification of violence," Buist says. "We both talk to ourselves at the end of the play by a theatrical contrivance that you must come to see the play to enjoy."
Performances of Comedy of Errors are scheduled for 8:15 p.m. on July 28, and August 1,3 and 5 at Miller Outdoor Theatre, 6000 Hermann Park Drive. Shown in repertory with Hamlet. For information, visit the Houston Shakespeare Festival website. Free.