LA Review: 'The Comedy of Errors'

Independent Shakespeare Co. at the Old Zoo in Griffith Park as part of the Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival

Reviewed by Katherine Davis

August 06, 2012


Photo by Grettel Cortes
Mistaken identities, shrewish wives, goofball servants, and all the tropes of Shakespearean comedy abound in "The Comedy of Errors," one of the Bard's earliest works. The play's humor makes it accessible to all audiences and a perfect choice for outdoor summer theater. Independent Shakespeare Co. has given the silly script a new setting and created an undeniably fun evening of free theater.

The story centers on the confusion that begins in the city of Ephesus when a man's long-lost identical twin and the long-lost identical twin of his servant arrive in town. Confused yet? So are the characters. While Antipholus of Syracuse is surprised that everyone seems to know his name upon his arrival, that he has been invited to dinner by a stranger claiming to be his wife, and that he is randomly bestowed with gold and money, his brother, Antipholus of Ephesus, is going about his daily routine when he finds himself locked out of his house, arrested for debts, and accused of witchcraft. Of course, the chaos eventually resolves in a happy ending.

Director Melissa Chalsma sets the story in the 1940s, an era befitting the slapstick humor set up by the farcical plot. Her playful staging calls to mind the Three Stooges and Spencer Tracy–Katharine Hepburn films, and she guides her energetic cast through amusing paces. Kate Bishop's colorful, fun costumes provide a visual reference for the setting, taking advantage of the hats, gloves, and bow ties of the era. One of the loveliest elements reinforcing the '40s theme is the Andrews Sisters–style music by Bliss Blood. Tight vocal harmonies performed by Mary Guilliams and Ashley Nguyen, accompanied by artistic director David Melville on the ukulele, make the scene changes as enjoyable as the scenes.

The actors do not disappoint. The show's two sets of twins are so well cast and dressed that you have to pay close attention to tell which is which, and all four actors are riotous. As Antipholus of Syracuse, Sean Prichett does just what an actor should do with Shakespeare: He honors the language while making it understandable and brings out his character's personality and humor. A. of S.'s wooing of Luciana (Claudia Vázquez), with the help of Chalsma's sexy staging, had the audience shrieking with laughter. André Martin, as poor Antipholus of Ephesus, gives his character hilarious frustration. Martin shows off his physical-comedy skills when A of E finds himself on the receiving end of Dr. Pinch's (Melville) torturous exorcism. Dromio of Syracuse (Richard Azurdia) and Dromio of Ephesus (Bobby Plasencia) get even more laughs as the confused twin servants answering to two identical masters. Adriana (Aisha Kabia), the wife at the center of the madness, is quite funny in her jealous rage as she growls demands—"Do not tear thyself away from me!"—though Kabia occasionally is a bit too shrill.

On the whole the production is smooth and energetic and keeps the audience laughing. It earned well-deserved applause from a very pleased crowd.

Presented by Independent Shakespeare Co. as part of the Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival at the Old Zoo in Griffith Park, near 4730 Crystal Springs Drive, L.A. Aug. 2–Sept. 1. Schedule varies. (818) 710-6306 or www.iscla.org.
 

 
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