Shakespeare in the Square


Columbus Square Park’s about to get really funny. REV Theatre Company, which splits its time between New York City and Philadelphia, is staging a two-night run of William Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors,” and it’s all for free. Running off the success of REV’s treatment of “Errors” at the Cape May Shakespeare Festival, the players continue to bring theater to parks and non-theater spaces with a mission of treating classic texts with reverence but creative imaginations.

“A lot of people are terrified of Shakespeare, and a lot of people think it’s boring – we want to blast away the cobwebs, and there’s nothing boring about what we do,” Rudy Caporaso, REV’s co-artistic director, said. “This ain’t your grandma’s Shakespeare. You’ll have a lovely evening of summer fun.”

He and the play’s director, Rosey Hay (the company’s other co-artistic director), are in the process of planting some roots here in Philly. They’re temporarily stationed at a house in Queen Village at Second and Fitzwater streets, the home of a Cape May Festival producer and company ally.

“We are living in South Philly right now and it’s more than just temporary,” Hay said.

“Our lives are indeed a tale of two cities with a huge primary focus on Philly right now,” Caporaso added.

The play, which will commence at 6 p.m. at 12th and Reed streets tonight and tomorrow, is a little on the obscure end, an earlier comedy that rarely gets produced. That ends up being a good thing – it’s not simple, per se, but it’s also not nearly as complex as a history play or the playwright’s later fantasies.

“It’s about two sets of identical twins who are lost very soon after their births, and they are reunited through a series of mistaken identities and crazy madcap things happen,” Hay said. “There are crazy, zany ingredients.”

The press release embellishes with great detail: “Take two pairs of identical twins, a jealous wife and her love-struck sister, a greedy merchant, a father whose head will be chopped off at sunset, a dimwitted courtesan, a stolen necklace, one angry nun, a greasy kitchen wench and an exorcist, add in Shakespeare’s brilliant, sparkling language and the result is a concoction of delightful lunacy and farcical delirium.”

Caporaso, who’ll also portray a set of twins, says his choreography includes “extreme and vibrant physicalness to the point of athleticism.” There will be “slapstick and classic screwball comedy harkening back to the movies of the ‘30s – I’ve been influenced by The Three Stooges, of course Charlie Chaplin, and Lucille Ball.”

Part of REV’s mission is disassociating theater with a silent room.

“Theater doesn’t have to be done in a darkened room where people sit quietly,” Hay said.

“I hate theater in quiet, darkened rooms,” Caporaso chimed in.

The early start time encourages family participation and helps actors engage with audience members.

“We’re very keen and committed to the idea of immersive theater, which is hugely popular right now,” Caporaso admitted. “People can expect an overall enveloping experience, a lot of audience interactive stuff.”

Audiences are encouraged to bring blankets, chairs if desirable, snacks and drinks and enjoy themselves for two hours.

Ilene Wilder, president of the Columbus Square Advisory Council, was instrumental in getting REV to the park.

“Rudy is hilarious. He is going to be a lot of fun. They did ‘Hamlet’ in Scranton earlier this year, and Rudy was really, really great – they’re fun, cooky theater people,” Wilder said. “We haven’t had anything like this in a while. Since I’ve been here for the last 10 or 12 years, this is kind of the first cultural activity we’ve had.”

Wilder says more rooted residents have reported that the Philadelphia Orchestra used to come down to play in the park. She says she’s contacted Shakespeare in the Park and Pennsylvania Ballet, but this event is also meant to show neighbors how the park might be used when it’s overhauled. The Passyunk Square inhabitant said locals can expect a groundbreaking in spring of 2016 on a multi-million dollar renovation.

She and her board thought REV’s two-night residence might be an ideal fundraiser, but then REV received a grant to bring Shakespeare to public places for free. They switched gears but they’re working in a fundraising angle.

“We’ve got some shops in the Avenue who have agreed to raffle off their services so they can come to your home and make dinner for you,” Wilder reported of a raffle they’ll sell tickets for tonight and tomorrow. “Mostly we’re doing it so that I can show people the things we can do in the park when it’s done.”

Contact Staff Writer Bill Chenevert at or ext. 117.

A small glimpse of the zany in store when REV takes over Columbus Square Park Thursday and Friday. Photo by Dave Kappler