Shakespeare with a Music City twist

Elizabeth Winter

As the sun sets on Centennial Park during most fall weekends, The Nashville Shakespeare Festival takes charge of the theater in a secluded corner of the park. They perform to audiences young and old with quirky and original renditions of Shakespeare’s plays.

A large crowd gathered to see this Saturday’s production of The Comedy of Errors,settling in for the show on picnic blankets, camp chairs and bleacher seating. The night kicked off with a presentation by a guest speaker, Tennessee State University’s Dr. Samantha Morgan-Curtis, and musical pre-show entertainment performed by the bluesy Eight O’Five Jive. In the meantime, the audience helped themselves to a selection of food trucks — everything from DegThai to Choo Choo BBQ and, of course, Jeni’s Ice Cream.

The show began promptly at 7:30 p.m., transporting the audience to a town called Ephesus that bears a stark resemblance to Nashville in the 1960’s. So similar that it even had its own Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, renamed the “Porpentine Lounge.” The Music City theme was made complete by a small country-western band providing background music, heartwarming original songs and some line dancing.

It was hard not to be charmed by the feisty and colorfully costumed characters, dressed in cowboy hats and just the right amount of fringe as they performed the story of two sets of identical twins separated at birth and accidentally reunited. When Antipholus of Syracuse and his servant Dromio of Syracuse unknowingly wander into the town where their brothers Antipholus and Dromio of Ephesus live, each twin is repeatedly and hilariously mistaken for his counterpart. General mayhem ensues, including beatings, seduction and a musical exorcism.

The cast formed an easy connection with the audience and often engaged them in the action, keeping them on their toes with witty wordplay and running through the theater’s aisles in dynamic chases. The modern interpretation only added more humor to Shakespeare’s playful and fast-paced dialogue. The end of the performance was met with a hearty, deserved applause.

The show will run for one more weekend, Thursday through Sunday, with the pre-show lecture and entertainment starting at 6:00 p.m. and the performance beginning at 7:30. The show is free, with a $10 suggested donation. Whether you want to show off your cultured side to your friends or just escape campus for a night, take a quick walk across West End — The Comedy of Errors won’t disappoint.