“The Comedy of Errors”: Slaves, Courtesans and Lost Twins

Breathing life into words written centuries ago, student actors in the play “The Comedy of Errors,” written by William Shakespeare, performed with energizing theatrical spirit that would have made Shakespeare proud. Directed by Kevin Heelan, Instructor in Theater, the play combined dramatic sound effects with humorous acting and over-the-top costumes.

The circular-shaped performance space of the play allows audience members to surround the performers on every side.

“The most noticeable difference between this show and other shows is the stage itself: it’s in the round,” said Emma Kukielski ’15, Assistant Stage Manager. “That’s a real challenge for the actors, since one of the major rules of theatre is to never turn your back to the audience. We had to find a way to act toward every single angle production of the theatre.”

The play opens with an elderly Syracusian man, Egeon, played by Alex Rubin ’14, entering the city of Ephesus. Suddenly, a cast of flamboyantly-dressed characters emerges from the dark corners of the stage and begin to dance around the aging man. The leader steps forward and informs Egeon that he has broken a law of Ephesus by entering the city as a merchant, and therefore will be punished. Unless Egeon can pay a fine of one thousand marks by the following day, he will be sentenced to death.

A flashback reveals that Egeon is in the town of Ephesus because he is in search of his long-lost son and slave, both of whom have another twin. He shares a tale of how his twin sons and twin slaves became separated. During a storm, Egeon was separated from his wife. While he ended up with one son and one slave, his wife ended with the other son and the other slave. Egeon’s son, Antipholus of Syracuse, and his slave, had set out to Ephesus to find their twin siblings, but when both of them never returned, Egeon decided to come after them.

Since no Shakespearean comedy is ever complete without the elements of romance and heartbreak, the play cues the entrance of Antipholus of Syracuse, played by Zach Bamford ’14. He soon finds himself entrapped in a messy tangle of relationships when he is mistaken for his twin, Antipholus of Ephesus, by his twin’s wife, Adrianna, played by David Benedict ’15 and Alice Rossiter ’17, respectively. However, Antipholus of Syracuse finds himself falling for Adrianna’s sister, Luciana, played by Gabriel Braunstein ’16.

“Luciana is a very ditzy character,” said Braunstein. “She chews her gum [really loudly], [and is a] very fashion conscious, kind of a vain person. She is just utterly wooed by Antipholus [of Syracuse].”

After being lulled by the beautiful rhythm and language of the play, the audience is surprised by the blare of a pop song, cueing the introduction of the sultry courtesan, played by Liana Brooks ’15. Antipholus of Ephesus, who sees his wife dining with another man, swears to make his wife jealous by approaching the courtesan. However, he soon realizes that running to the arms of courtesan can result in complicated attachments.

“Shakespeare can be really difficult for an audience to relate to, especially teenagers. Often, when high school students put on a Shakespeare play, they lose the humor in it because the language is so foreign,” said Kukielski.

Braunstein added, “We take pride in [the play] because… we’ve taken Shakespeare and made it into something that is a little less boring, a little less drafty.”

The Comedy of Errors will be performed this Friday at 7:30 p.m. as well as Saturday at 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. in Steinbach Theater. Tickets are free but must be reserved in advance at the box office.