Stage Review: The Comedy of Errors – a romp to help with the winter blues

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With coincidences worthy of twins Jim Lewis and Jim Springer (you really must Google them to find out their amazing true story), Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors takes to the stage at Langara’s Studio 58 with some very funny results.

Thought to be one of the Bard’s earliest plays, The Comedy of Errors tells the story of two sets of identical twins separated at birth and both happen to have the same names – Antipholous  (Alex Rose & Anton Lipovetsky) and Dromio (Ky Scott and Kayla Dunbar) –  each differentiated only by the city in which they live and their status.   One day the four find themselves in the city of Ephesus.  For the next two hours we are served up a multitude of scenes where family, townspeople and even the Queen (Amy Hall-Cummings) are fooled, mistaken identities are taken to the extreme with wrongful beatings and accusations of infidelity, theft and even madness.  To add to the farce, the two Antipholous boys’ father, Egeon (Matthew Beairsto), also finds himself in Ephesus that same day, arrested and facing execution.

The cast is obviously having a great time and it is infectious.  Director Scott Bellis keeps things moving along at breakneck speed which translates into one of the shortest pieces of Shakespeare I have seen in many years.   Joel Ballard and Noah Rosenbaum steal the show.  The gender bend of the two Dromios was a fun touch.

Alex Rose and Ky Scott in Studio 58's The Comedy of Errors
Alex Rose and Ky Scott in the Studio 58 production of The Comedy of Errors.  Photo by Emily Cooper.

Director Bellis’s decision to place the proceedings inside the wild world of steampunk, a fusion of Victorian culture, science-fiction and modern punk, is pure eye-candy.  Pam Johnson’s set design and Naomi Sider’s costumes take full advantage of the steampunk genre.  Think H.G. Wells’ Time Machine meets Tim Burton.  In fact, as the lights came up on the first act, I fully expected Johnny Depp to come prancing across the stage.   But while Depp didn’t make an appearance, there indeed was prancing and some hopping and lots of running too.  I had hoped that perhaps the steampunk world might have played a more integral role than it did but from a purely esthetic viewpoint, it was one of the stars of this show.

In his notes, Director Bellis talks of something more than just a comedy lurking beneath the silliness.  Perhaps, but I didn’t spend too much time looking for it.  The Comedy of Errors is Shakespeare at his slightest, a romp that will do wonders to help you forget we’re in the middle of a grey Vancouver winter.

3 1/2 of 5 Starrs The Comedy of Errors

By William Shakespeare.  Directed by Scott Bellis.  A Studio 58 / Langara College production.  On stage at Studio 58 through February 20, 2011.  

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