Last Leaf performs Shakespeare comedy in parks

Second and final free showing set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Rosehill
By Nicholas Johnson | Jul 19, 2017
Photo by: Nicholas Johnson Kira Thorkildsen, left, as Dromio of Syracuse and Scott Berfield as Antipholus of Syracuse react to Jennifer Davies as Adriana and Tiegen Walker as Luciana in a scene from The Comedy of Errors on Sunday, July 16, at 92nd Street Park in Mukilteo.

A troupe of traveling thespians has returned to Mukilteo to perform William Shakespeare’s comic tale of mistaken identity: The Comedy of Errors.

Complete with its signature slapstick, puns and wordplay, this wildly silly play is one of Shakespeare’s most popular.

“People are always happy with it,” Last Leaf Productions director Alexandra Clark said. “It moves fast, and it’s fun for all ages. It’s also very physical, so even if the language is new to people, it’s a very visually engaging show.”

Antipholus and his sidekick Dromio find themselves in Ephesus, where people from their hometown, Syracuse, are excluded under pain of death. Unbeknowst to them or anybody else, they both have an identical twin already living in Ephesus, by extraordinary coincidence also named Antipholus and Dromio. A hilarious day of mistaken identities and giddy confusion ensues.

“It’s hilarious,” Clark said. “I always say it was the first sitcom script.”

The Comedy of Errors is one of Shakespeare’s earliest known plays. Scholars suspect it was written for a performance at Gray’s Inn Hall – to an audience that would have included many lawyers – on Dec. 28, 1594. The plot is based on the Roman comedy Menaechmi by Plautus.

Now in its 19th season, Last Leaf Productions is a touring theatre company based in Monroe that typically performs two abridged productions of Shakespeare’s work every summer from June through August. This year, the company is focusing solely on The Comedy of Errors.

About 30 people set up on the grass at 92nd Street Park on Sunday afternoon, July 16, to catch the first of two showings in Mukilteo. The second show is set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 20, at the Rosehill Community Center.

The Sydney Bakery & Wine Bar is also providing concessions for attendees. Cash is required for concessions.

The free performances in the park last about an hour.

“We do that to give a welcoming entre to non Shakespeare experts,” Clark said. “We want everyone to have a comfortable experience. This way, hopefully, you get an introduction to Shakespeare and come away wanting more.”

Performing Shakespeare in the park has always been a summer tradition in her life, which is why she continues to bring it to communities throughout the region, including Arlington, Woodinville, Lake Stevens and Bellevue.

“When we established this production company, we were initially taking theatre to kids,” she said. “Then I said, ‘I want to do Shakespeare in the park,’ which wasn’t being done in Monroe and other areas north of Seattle.”

Last Leaf first brought its performances to Mukilteo in 2013, and returned in 2014 and 2015. In 2016, Curtain Call Theatre Northwest performed Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night's Dream.”

The outdoor setting and minimal staging forces the actors to bring their characters to life through strong, expressive acting.

“We have costumes, a backdrop and hand props, but really this setup employs the actors’ full capacity to fill the space with their acting chops,” Clark said. “It gives the actor the opportunity to shine more than on any other set.”

If you’ve never experienced live theatre in a park, Clark said you might be surprised at how much you enjoy it.

“We are inside with gray weather so often during the year,” she said. “So this is a great opportunity to get outside and enjoy some theatre in a natural setting.”

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