Drilling Company Presents ‘The Comedy of Errors’ in 20th Season

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The Drilling Company will present “The Comedy of Errors” directed by Kathy Curtiss, from July 7 to July 23, 2011 as the opening show of the 20th season of Shakespeare in the Park(ing) Lot, a summer New York institution performed free in a municipal parking lot at the corner of Ludlow and Broome Streets in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

Shakespeare in the Parking Lot typically presents intrepid, bare-boned and often gloriously ingenious adaptations of the classics. For example, last summer, Hamilton Clancy staged “Julius Caesar” as a battle for control of an urban school system, with women playing Brutus and Cassius.

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Clockwise from left: Jessica Doherty, Shane Mitchell, Drew Valins, Grant Turnbull, Tom Machell, Lauren Hayden. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

The Drilling Company’s production of “The Comedy of Errors” adapts Shakespeare’s comedy of mischance and mistaken identity to a modern pizzeria in Little Italy.

The rivalry of the houses of Syracuse and Ephesus is updated to a struggle between two prominent Italian restaurant families, one of whom-that of Aegion-long ago endured the loss of its patriarch’s wife and one of his twin sons. The clans are-unknown to each other at first-both gathering in the old neighborhood they grew out of. (You know Ephesus Street, right? Just below Kenmare.)

Possibilities for confusion are increased by the presence of two identical restaurant workers, both named Dromio, who were originally servants in Shakespeare’s 1591 version and are now employees of the rival restaurants. The mischievous and disarming farce exploits the families’ ordeal of loss and recovery with a dizzying series of maneuvers involving a jealous wife, her moralizing sister, somebody’s befuddled mistress and a schoolteacher/motivational speaker/life coach who offers a religious cure for the neighborhood’s madness. Ultimately, both clans are reunited with their family bonds renewed, stronger than ever for the tests of adversity and long separation.

Director Kathy Curtiss explains, “This comedy lends itself to the developed work of the early Italian Commedia dell’Arte tradition, which we will use in a modern setting, with lots of distinct modern character types and “lazzi” [comic running bits] to develop wit and physical action. Its story of mistaken identity will allow us to make a little social commentary on modern marriage, the madcap New York city night life and how well we know our loved ones from others. It should be a blast.”

Artistic Director Hamilton Clancy writes, “Our mission with Shakespeare in the Parking Lot is to bring Shakespeare’s Globe to a parking Lot on the Lower East Side. The only difference is that in the parking lot, we’re all groundlings and that’s what makes it so democratic.” Seats are available on a first come first serve basis, with audience members often arriving as early as 7:00 PM to secure a place. You are encouraged and welcome to bring your own chair. Once seats are gone, blankets are spread out. “We’ve never turned anyone away and there’s never a wait for tickets!” brags Clancy.

Director Kathy Curtiss staged “Love’s Labor’s Lost” last year for Shakespeare in the Park(ing) Lot. She was director of Michael Chekov Ensemble’s production of Sam Shepard’s “A Lie of the Mind” and was assistant Director to Tony Walton on the Rodgers and Heart musical “Spring is Here.” She has been commissioned to write a review with Charles Strouse on his life’s work. She has received awards from the National Theatre Museum, The Shakespeare Festival, the Castle Theatre Festival in Utah and Center Stage.

The cast includes Ian Biesinger, Nina Burns, Garret Burreson, Sergio Diaz, Michael Gnat, Lauren Hayden, Jack Herholdt, Thomas Machell, Shane Mitchell, Lisa Pettersson and Drew Valins. Set design is by Jennifer Varbalow. Costume design is by Lisa Renee Jordan.

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Clockwise from left: Drew Valins, Shane Mitchell, Tom Machell, Jessica Doherty, Lauren Hayden, Grant Turnbull. Photo by Hamilton Clancy.

The 2011 season of Shakespeare in the Park(ing) Lot will also include “Hamlet” directed by Hamilton Clancy from July 28 to August 13, 2011. That production will also feature a novel concept. Clancy explains, “We are setting the play in the future of America, when the wealthy have most of the power and the lower classes are scrambling for jobs and opportunity just to maintain and decent way of life. Into this futuristic world comes a prince who must debate what to do when confronted with the truth of a lying leader, obsessed with maintaining power and controlling spin at all costs. So we are telling the story of how one man holds it together while the rest of his world is falling apart, and what he finally decides to do about it.”

The plays are presented in a working parking lot, so you can drive there but you should expect to pay the Muni-meter. Why parking lot? “It is a tremendously accessible gathering place in the heart of the city. Like most companies that do Shakespeare we are following the spirit of Joseph Papp. But putting our own spin on it by placing it in a parking lot, making an urban wrinkle,” says founding artistic director Hamilton Clancy.

Shows are offered while the lot is in use. (Performances this season are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM for both shows.) The action sometimes happens around a parked car which drives away during a performance. At such times, the players stop and the audience moves its chairs, pausing the performance the same way a show would stop for rain uptown in Central Park. It’s all part of the fun.

Over the 20 years of Shakespeare in the Park(ing) Lot, there have been over 50 productions of Shakespeare’s plays for over 40,000 patrons. This summer’s offerings are supported by the Department for Cultural Affairs and the the New York State Council on the Arts, Con Edison, and the Department of Transportation.

The Drilling Company will present “The Comedy of Errors,” the opening show of the 20th season of Shakespeare in the Park(ing) Lot, July 7 to July 23, 2011 in the Municipal Parking Lot at the corner of Ludlow and Broome Streets, Manhattan. The location is one block south of the F train station at Delancey Street. All performances are free. Shows are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM. For more audience information, visit www.shakespeareintheparkinglot.com or call 212-873-9050.