The Chicago Shakespeare Theater was kind enough to provide complimentary tickets for me to bring my family to the opening day of Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors. While I usually dread going to Navy Pier because of the steep parking tab, I jumped at the opportunity to introduce Eva, age 7, and Charlie, age 4, to Shakespeare. Even though I have a degree in English Education and therefore have studied and taught Shakespeare, I could not recall this particular play. No matter, the synopsis is provided in the program. Just before the performance was to begin, I read and explained the story to Eva. When she responded with a, “huh?” I became worried and told myself that since it was a mere 75 minutes long, it would not matter so much if she understood it. As for Charlie, I just prayed he would be able to sit still and behave.
As soon as the performance began, the laughs came simultaneously and my anxiety quickly disappeared. This play had it all — slapstick physical comedy, romance, jugglers, cross-dressing, and drama. Yes, I did have to lean over to Eva a couple of times to explain, “You see, she thinks he is her wife, but he is really the wife’s husband’s twin brother, ” and, “No, the two servants have the same name and they look alike.” She really seemed to get the hilarity surrounding confusing the lookalikes. As for Charlie, my four-year-old, I don’t think he understood one bit of the story, but he enjoyed it on his own level nevertheless. He laughed at all the right times. When I asked him to tell me his favorite part, he exclaimed, “All of it!” As for Eva, she liked the mustached man dressed up as the wife of one of the twin brother servants (Strangely, this was my husband’s favorite part as well). As befitting a children’s performance, the lights go up after the show and the audience is encouraged to ask the cast members any questions they may have. Following that, the cast members mingle with the audience in the lobby.
I was especially amazed that the children did not complain about the Shakespearean language. Before the show officially began, one of the actors wisely “warned” the audience that the language would seem difficult at first but to give it a chance and rely on the context instead of getting hung up on understanding every little word. During our lunch following the show, I asked the children whether they had trouble understanding what the actors were saying. They looked at me curiously and answered with a resounding, “No!” I’m so happy that this was their first experience with Shakespeare. They had fun! When I told them that William Shakespeare was one of the greatest storytellers of all time, I think they really believed me. Try telling that to a group of high schoolers faced with reading the stuff and you get a room full of eye rolls. Oh, and as for that supposedly steep parking tab, the theater validates and it only came to $14.40. Thank you Chicago Shakespeare Theater!