Shakespeare’s plays are full of coincidences. Characters end up in the right place at the right time to stop a wedding, save a condemned man, or get mistaken for their twin. At the top of the happenstance heap is The Comedy of Errors, which deserves a booby prize for its unlikely, fluke-packed plot.
To believe the plot of Errors, the audience must buy the idea that twin brothers with the same name, Antipholus, are separated as infants, and that they have twin servants, also separated, named Dromio. And that they spend an entire day in the same town center looking for each other without meeting. But this early Shakespeare play is not written to be believable; it’s written to be enjoyed.
With that in mind, director Evan Parry has filled his production with fun visual elements and tomfoolery. Inspired by the vaudevillian banter between Antipholus and Dromio, Parry retools the tale to fit a late ’20s, early ’30s Hollywood locale. Characters in fantastic, brightly-colored costumes inhabit tall, yellow and purple Hopperesque buildings before a forced perspective background, creating a studio backlot feel. There are references to Chaplin, the Three Stooges, and the Keystone Kops. Silent film slapstick keeps the audience laughing and intertitles (a.k.a. title cards) are approximated with an easel.
As the interloping Antipholus, Robbie Thomas holds the show together with confidence. He is the straight man confused by the zany world around him, chased by a woman who thinks he’s her husband, bound by policemen who think he’s a thief. Lauren Riddle plays his servant, reveling in the riddles and wordplay of her character. As their counterparts, Ricky Dunn and Sierra Garland are equally likeable.
Parry spent four months creating this show, taking incredible pains to make it accessible to modern audiences. At times, however, this intent gets in the way of the storytelling. When Antipholus’ father (Brent Laing) sets up the story at the beginning, the movement going on around him distracts from what should be an important performance. As the street cleaners scamper about, it’s hard to hear some of the characters over the mute pair’s footfalls. But most of the time, Parry creates a vividly appealing, crowd-pleasing spectacle that’s still true to its source.