After canceling a planned Deering Oaks park production of “Henry IV, Part 1” last summer because of the pandemic, the Fenix Theatre Company decided to hold off on resurrecting Henry, Falstaff and the gang for yet another year and has instead made its 2021 return with something a bit lighter, an early Shakespeare farce concerning the misadventures of two sets of identical twins.

A cast of five takes on multiple roles in “The Comedy of Errors,” a play overflowing with confusion and misunderstandings as characters reconnect after years apart. Director Hannah Cordes has gone for the broad comedy in a trimmed down, 90-minute production of the play that seems, at first glance, almost fully committed to over-the-top, clownish humor. But thank heavens, the clever wordplay by the Bard, as squeezed into this high-energy production, brings things to another level.

It’s a production tailor-made for the park setting where plays must compete with distractions from any number of natural and manmade sources. When the lines occasionally get swallowed up in ambient noise, mimed passages and sight gags are still there to please. The performance space expands from the bandshell stage around and into the audience to bring a sense of up-close involvement for the folks seated on blankets or in lawn chairs.

The fact that the twin characters have the same names exponentially complicates the plot. Antipholus of Syracuse arrives in Ephesus with his servant Dromio of Syracuse. They encounter Antipholus of Ephesus whose servant is Dromio of Ephesus. Wives, lovers, merchants, royals and various others all get into the fray as identities and intentions are constantly being confused.

Elliot Nye, Robbie Harrison and Michela Micalizio in “The Comedy of Errors” at Deering Oaks park in Portland. Photo by Kat Moraros

Robbie Harrison takes on the roles of the two Antipholuses while Michela Micalizio embodies the two Dromios, each switching hats, vestments and attitudes between scenes to differentiate who they are playing at the moment.

Harrison has both his characters emotionally come apart at the seams as they repeatedly order the “wrong” Dromio to complete an important task only to later suffer incredulity from the “right” one. Romantic entanglements likewise go askew as Adriana, wife of Antipholus of Ephesus, tangles with his twin, who becomes enamored of her sister Luciana in the growing disorder.

Micalizio, as in previous productions for Fenix and elsewhere, is a ball of energy. Here, in largely matching roles, she’s exceptional as one of Shakespeare’s trademark silly but insightful underlings. Each attached to a blundering and often blubbering master, her Dromios are a delight in a highly kinetic and charismatic performance.

Kat Moraros, who knows her way around effectively projecting a Shakespearian role, is first rate as the put-upon Adriana. Hollie Pryor, as her sister and in one other brief role, likewise works her laugh lines well, adding welcome touches of subtlety to this whirlwind production.

Elliot Nye rounds out the cast in a handful of roles, delivering punchlines and moments of caricature, capturing the light and loose spirit of the show.

Deeper ideas about identity in changing times may be audience afterthoughts about a production that happily brings the Fenix Theatre Company back to its first home in the park.

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.

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