Encore Michigan

WaterWorks yucks up the Bard with ‘Terrible Errors’

Review August 06, 2018 Amy J. Parrent

ROYAL OAK, Michigan–For 18 years WaterWorks Theatre Company has presented the Bard and assorted related offerings on a stage under the beautiful big trees of a Royal Oak park. This year, one of those assorted offerings has been an original spoof on poorly done (and poorly understood) Shakespeare, a play by Don Zolidis called The Comedy of Terrible Errors!

If Shakespeare Royal Oak’s main show this season, the exceptionally well-done “Much Ado About Nothing,” is like a rich picnic repast you enjoyed pre-show, then Terrible is the ice-cream confections the theatre company sells at intermission, sweet and not too heavy for a warm (OK – hot!) August afternoon.

The premise is simple: Four actors are attempting to slog through “A Comedy of Errors,” which one explains is the 37th most popular Shakespearean play according to a BuzzFeed listicle. Well, actually, it’s three actors and an actor’s roommate, who shows up to replace her missing thespian friend. It probably doesn’t speak well for the trained actors (within the play) that she seems to muddle through almost as well as they do.

The real-life actors enthusiastically, and with great charm, barrel through the show, despite a script which occasionally hits a Michigan-pothole-like rough patch. However, director Lisa Melinn keeps the slapstick charging along effectively.

Even more than WaterWorks’ “Much Ado” – which was set in post-WWII Detroit – this farce made frequent references to stuff you find in Metro area: From Holly and the Renaissance Festival to the Kay and Jared jewelry stores. (One character’s excuse for being late: “There was construction on 696.”)

There’s also a bit of improv afoot, as audience suggestions are incorporated into the already haphazard retelling of Will S.’s original. (Hence the allusion to jewelry that is sparked by women in the audience stating their favorite gift is diamonds.) Oh, and there are dance parties, fights using a tambourine as a weapon, and dolls tied to pool noodles representing the two sets of twins tied to the mast.

One bit of dialog somehow evolves into the “Moses supposes” rhyme from “Singing in the Rain,” and another scene is played like a badly dubbed “Godzilla” movie. Shakespeare would’ve loved it. (We supposes.)

And of course, there are the overly enunciated speeches. The whole thing leaves even the actors “con-fuse-ed.” Particularly so is Steven Jean, in real-life and for the purposes of the play, an appealing college theatre student. “Didn’t anybody in Shakespeare’s time understand what twins were?” he pleads more than once, trying to make sense of the nonsensical plot devices.

The game-for-anything cast also includes Kristen Anne Danko as a sassy actor occasionally at odds with the play’s veteran actor/ director, and Melissa Beckwith as the hilariously overconfident amateur who guarantees the audience, “I will “rock your world.” Joel Mitchell is the wonderfully fussy actor/director whose acting choices include playing one role in a Christopher Walken voice.