by Eric W. Austin
On Saturday, I was lucky enough to catch the final showing of The Southern Maine Association of Shakespearean Homeschoolers (SMASH) production of The Comedy of Errors. After months of rehearsal (and surviving two blizzards!), and a previous weekend of public performances already under their belt, the cast hadn’t lost any of their enthusiasm for the material. Directed by Pastor Sam Richards, of Winthrop, it was truly amazing to see these kids, ages K-12, remember all their lines without a hitch!
Four members of the Maxwell family, of China, had significant roles. Ian Maxwell, the only 12th grader in the cast, shone in the lead role of Antipholus of Syracuse. His dramatic flair brought immediacy to the performance and his delivery of the slightly archaic Elizabethan lines was spot on. Ian will be attending Eastern University, in Pennsylvania.
Abigail Maxwell fit her part as blushing Luciana perfectly, as well as serving as apprentice director. Andrew Maxwell was imperious as Solinus, and James Maxwell showed his inner thug as the Second Merchant.
And who can forget Johnathan Batchelder, of Vassalboro, who tied the entire play together with his gravitas portrayal of Father Time?
Johnathan’s mother, Larisa, served as production manager.
For those who aren’t English majors, The Comedy of Errors is one of Shakespeare’s more farcical comedies, filled with puns, word play and mistaken identity (as well as Shakespearean staples like false accusations of infidelity, theft, madness, and demonic possession). Basically, it’s about two sets of twin brothers who are separated at birth. One set of twins later travels to the town where the first set lives, and soon everyone is confused, mistaking one set for the other as much iambician mayhem ensues.
More Mel Brooks than Richard III, it’s a complicated plot based almost entirely on the confusion of all involved, but the young thespians pulled it off with aplomb. Their spirited performances kept me entertained even when I was sharing the confusion of the story’s characters.
This year, the addition of microphones, for some of the younger actors, was a great improvement over last year, when I often struggled to hear the lines of the quieter cast members.
SMASH is a small theatre group comprised of homeschool families from the far reaches of central Maine and was founded by Sam Richards in 1993. DVDs of shows from the previous three years (Merchant of Venice, 2015; Midsummer Night’s Dream, 2016; and Comedy of Errors, 2017) are available for a small donation of $3 per DVD, or $7 for all three plus $1.50 shipping. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://smashmaine.jimdo.com/ for more information.