Short And Sweet “Comedy Of Errors” Works Well For St. Louis Shakespeare

Ben Watts as Dromio and Christopher LaBanca as Antipholus in St. Louis Shakespeare's "The Comedy of Errors."

Ben Watts as Dromio and Christopher LaBanca as Antipholus in St. Louis Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors.”

Everything has been trimmed down for the current St. Louis Shakespeare Company’s version of “The Comedy Of Errors.” It’s a slim 70 minute one act, adapted by Alec Wild. Characters have been cut from the action (including one Antipholus and one Dromio). And the bare bones set completes the sleek, sweeping rehash of one of the greatest comedies of all time. And yet, it all works with a quick-fire prologue, a splash of color added to costumes to distinguish between the two sets of twins and a few actors tackling several roles.

Director Jef Awada keeps things moving with the help of scenic designer George Spelvin who creates all the necessary surroundings using some scaffolding, two sets of rolling stairs like you find at Home Depot and a rolling door frame that takes on double (or maybe triple) duty- all painted white against a black curtain backdrop.  Actors do all of the quick scene changes swinging the stairs and door frame around stage to denote everything from the house of Antipholus of Ephesus to a goldsmith’s shop and even transportation on and off or across the stage as actors (particularly Dromio) use the stairs like a taxi to transport them from one place to another.

Speaking of Dromio, Ben Watts creates the two Dromio’s with his cheeky, frenetic style- perfect for the always rattled slave to Antipholus. He simply shines in the lengthy but hilarious speculation on the lady he meets who is round as a sphere- describing where every country on the globe may be situated on her body (reminiscent of Groucho Marx with his wonderful “Lydia, The Tatooed Lady”). Also creating two distinct characters for Antipholus of Syracuse and Ephesus is Christopher LaBanca. These two make a wonderful pair as they stumble and grope their way through confusion until the final resolution where the twins are revealed to each other. How do they do this with only one actor playing both roles? You’ll have to see it to discover the clever reveal at play’s end.

Maggie Conroy as Adriana and Julia Crump as Luciana in "The Comedy Of Errors" at St. Louis Shakespeare.

Maggie Conroy as Adriana and Julia Crump as Luciana in “The Comedy Of Errors” at St. Louis Shakespeare.

Maggie Conroy is a fiery Adriana, wife of Antipholus of Ephesus. She doesn’t back down when her husband doesn’t seem to recognize her and fights her way through all the confusion. As her sister, Luciana, Julia Crump is sweet and lilting of speech as she finds the bright spot to every dilemma that crops up with the havoc of twins showing up for Antipholus and Dromio.

The supporting cast is effective and hard working including Andrew Kuhlman in several roles including the confused goldsmith who is waiting to get paid for a necklace he has delivered to Antipholus. Shane Bosillo has fun as Dr. Pinch, among others. Nikki Lott and Andrew Rea complete the cast in several roles as well.

The costumes of Felia Davenport work well and, as I said, the frantic feel of all of the rolling pieces just add to the joy of confusion that “The Comedy Of Errors” puts forth. With the Rep having done such a grand scale production just last year, it’s wise that St. Louis Shakespeare tackled this lighter and more ethereal script. It works well and provides all of the humor and panache of the original- although it’s probably more effective if you’ve seen the play in its entirety before.

“The Comedy Of Errors” plays through October 26th at the Florissant Civic Center Theatre as presented by the St. Louis Shakespeare Company. Call them at 314-361-5664 for tickets or more information.

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