Langara, Shakespeare, theatre

>Theatre Review : Studio 58’s "The Comedy of Errors"

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Directed by Scott Bellis. A Studio 58 and Langara College production sponsored by the Langara College Theatre Arts Advisory Committee. At Studio 58 on Thursday, Jan. 27. Continues until Feb. 20.

Studio 58’s newest production surprised viewers with its dark update of Shakespeare’s mistaken identity masterpiece.

The play was a manic success in the capable hands of director Scott Bellis, a veteran actor, founding member of Bard on the Beach and grad of the Langara’s vaunted theatre program.

The reimagining of Ephesus as a dark industrial town meshed well with the opening scene’s choreography, which was set to the soundtrack of Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes film. The set channeled the look and feel of that movie and Naomi Sider’s macabre costumes were straight out of a Tim Burton film.

The juxtaposition between the script and setting was a little jarring at the outset of the dialogue. However, Shakespearean soliloquys soon found a comfortable home in this parallel universe where policemen tote revolvers and conjurers dole out electroshock therapy. The giant steam clock and the town’s electrical grid repeatedly blacked out as a hunchbacked repair man precipitated scene changes or freeze frames where one character would step out for a monologue.

With a story revolving around two sets of identical twins and their repeatedly mistaken identities, the four actors created palpable characterizations and you often found yourself forgetting that one Dromio had departed the stage and another had come on.

The identical twin brothers named Antipholus, and their twin servants the Dromios, have been estranged for years until Antipholus of Syracuse, played by the capricious Anton Lipovetsky, arrives in his brother’s town and is promptly caught up in controversy over his twin’s supposed adultery.

One of the most memorable scenes has both sets of twins rebuking each other from a revolving doorway as it spins out of control and the characters fall further into madness. Throughout the production characters banter back and forth rapid fire and there were no signs of opening night jitters.

The script is one of the bard’s dirtiest, and demonstrates that filthy jokes told between buddies are still funny even when referencing geography in old English.

The gigantic Joel Ballard plays the portly cook at the butt end of the jokes and his disturbing take on Nell steals the show. Nell is constantly longing for one of the Dromio twins and punctuates each temporary defeat with an unbridled Chewbacca warble. Bellis admitted in the talkback session this was a clear homage to the beloved Star Wars wookie.

The rest of the cast put in strong performances, with notable contributions by Pandora Morgan as a vampy courtesan and Paula Burrows as the altruistic Luciana.

As good as the ensemble was, it could not save viewers from the drawn out denouement where each character’s problems immediately vanish in an unbelievable scene.

Overall this was an ambitious and dark new take on a classic play with a surprisingly malleable script.
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