Studio 58’s Comedy of Errors excels as part gothic punk, part circus renaissance

January 2011
By STEPHANIE IP

The Comedy of Errors
Presented by Studio 58 | Directed by Scott Bellis
Set Design by Pam Johnson | Costume Design by Naomi Sider
Lighting Design by Itai Erdal | Sound Design by Shawn Sorensen

The difficulty with Shakespearean productions is not in their execution, but in the way theatre companies choose to reinterpret their characters and settings. The situations encountered by his characters are often timeless and easy for even modern audiences to relate to, but in order to make audiences sit at attention and truly engage, it’s necessary to stylize the production in a way that is relevant and colloquial.

Studio 58’s presentation of The Comedy of Errors does this by capitalizing on a style in today’s pop culture made popular by the likes of Lady Gaga and Johnny Depp in Alice in Wonderland. Much like slinking circus freaks, the stage, the costumes, and even the demeanor of the characters are all at once whimsical and gothic, cool and alternative.

The Comedy of Errors follows the journey of two sets of twins who were each separated at birth. Twenty-five years later, these pairs cross paths and what ensues is haphazard clockwork of mistaken identity and tangled communication. Originally set in France of the 1500s, Studio 58 translates this into a gothic, punky, English production.

Alex Rose and Anton Lipovetsky play the first set of twins, Antipholus of Ephesus and Syracuse, while Ky Scott and Kayla Dunbar play the second set of twins, Dromio, also of Ephesus and Syracuse. Lipovetsky is light-hearted and comical as the Antipholus who is thrown into a life of wealth and beautiful women. Rose is slightly more challenged in his role as the slighted Antipholus. Both men, despite only sharing one scene towards the end of the play, are able to connect their characters in well-timed entrances and exits, at times even leading the audience to confuse the two. Scott and Dunbar, also only sharing one scene towards the end, do a stellar job of mirroring the other’s actions and qualities, confusing the audience even more so than Antipholus.

The highlight of the cast, however, is Kendall Wright who plays Adriana, wife of Antipholus of Ephesus. Wright is so well-spoken and casted as Adriana that she seems to be years above her cast mates in experience. While it is obvious that many cast members are still students and continue to grapple with onstage presence, Wright seems more suited to a larger theatre with her heartfelt gestures and eloquent grasp of Shakespeare’s language.

The other comedic aspect of the production comes in the form of Noah Rosenbaum and Joel Ballard, who bravely take on cross-dressing in their roles as Luce and Nell, two servants in the Ephesus household. Both men are almost unrecognizable in their slovenly costumes and make-up but, despite minimal dialogue, manage to convey realistically comical characters who play a large role in shaping the comedic feel of the production.

The costumes, designed by Naomi Sider, are intricate and vintage all at once, a slight mix of medieval punk rock and circus renaissance. Details such as wire-rimmed looking glasses and gold-buckled boots add to the authenticity and allure of the costumes’ 17th century-style glam.

Studio 58, known for its high-caliber performances, once again outdoes itself by finding a style that is unpredictable and applying that to the age-old formula of Shakespeare. With its small studio, the company manages to fit its abundant cast and storyline into a simple backdrop, employing the use of rolling set pieces and creative lighting. The Comedy of Errors is smartly put together and succeeds in embellishing Shakespeare without drowning it out.