Studio 58's production of The Comedy of Errors is like fireworks
By William Shakespeare. Directed by Scott Bellis. A Studio 58 production. At Studio 58 on Saturday, January 29. Continues until February 20
If I could ululate in print, I would. The vision for this production of The Comedy of Errors is so exciting, there’s so much freewheeling invention and flat-out fun flying around the stage, that it’s like fireworks. Or chocolate. Or sex. Or something like that. Let’s just say there’s so much talent splashing about, you feel like you’re going to have to clean up afterward.
Director Scott Bellis brings a steampunk vision to the script. Steampunk takes Victoriana and gives it a sexy, grungy, anachronistic twist. So you get beautifully overwrought Victorian clothing—plus rebellion and calculators.
In The Comedy of Errors, two sets of twins—one noble, one low-born—have been separated at birth. Inexplicably, they’ve been given matching names: the nobles are called Antipholus, and their servants are named Dromio. At the beginning of the play, the Antipholus and Dromio from Syracuse arrive in Ephesus, where there’s already an Antipholus and Dromio. Everybody gets mistaken for everybody else and all hell breaks loose.
Because it has a sinister, disorienting edge, steampunk fits the play like a velvet glove on a mechanical hand. Bellis opens the evening with a choreographed sequence in which the characters gaze at one another through the empty frames of handheld mirrors that are haloed in industrial wire. Perfect.
Pam Johnson contributes a beautifully ornate set that makes you feel like you’re inside a rusty old watch.
And costume designer Naomi Sider knocks it out of the park. I’ve been going to the theatre for a long, long time, and this is one of the best sets of costumes I’ve ever seen. The pant legs and sleeves of the Gaoler’s leather costume feature gaps, blank spaces that are held together with chunks of elastic and little metal clips. A conjurer has one mechanical eye, steam coming out of his hat, and an adding machine attached to his hand. The Antipholuses sport black-and-white striped waistcoats and high, studded hats. The moss-green satin dress of one of the noblewomen is hitched up to reveal patterned stockings that look like butterfly tattoos. Ai yi yi.
In a lighting plot that contains its own witty surprises, Itai Erdal often illuminates the action from down low, casting the weird shadows you see in some of Degas’s paintings of gas-lit ballerinas.
Bellis and his cast make excellent choice after excellent choice. The script refers to a fat female cook whom we usually don’t see, but Bellis brings her on-stage to hilarious effect. In drag, Joel Ballard makes Nell the embodiment of ravenous sexual appetite.
And there are other standouts in the strong cast. Anton Lipovetsky is arrestingly charismatic and in complete comedic control as Antipholus of Syracuse. The Dromios, who are both played by women, are excellent: Kayla Dunbar as Dromio of Syracuse, and charmingly loose Ky Scott as Dromio of Ephesus. In another drag performance, Noah Rosenbaum is ghoulishly amusing as a cleaning servant named Luce. And Adam Weidl takes the often thankless role of Angelo, the goldsmith, and makes it live.
This show rocks.