The St. Olaf Theater Production “The Comedy of Errors” was the spring joy we didn’t know we needed. Basking in the sun on a Sunday afternoon, a crowd of 100 or so gathered outside of Kelsey Theater to experience some dearly missed in-person theatre. As the show opened with an ’80s style dance and a white stretch limo, it demonstrated that the audience was in for a fun hour and a half.
Each actor wore bright and colorful clothing straight out of the 80s. The Duke (played by Jack Stetler ’21) wore gold platform heels and a bedazzled suit. He commanded authority as he perched nonchalantly on a golden throne. Each of the actors that made up the world of Ephesus were animated, colorful, dramatic and so much fun to watch.
Elijah Leer’s ’22 earnest, fatherly and solemn depiction of Egeon contrasted the youthful silliness of the rest of the ensemble. During his opening monologue, the audience was able to piece together the play’s origin story: Egeon’s two twin sons, their twin servants and he and his wife, were separated when they were babies. He has lost his family and is in search of his son who has gone on a quest for his twin brother with his servant, who is looking for his twin brother. And if that wasn’t confusing enough, each set of twins shares the same name: Antipholus, the son of Egeon, and Dromio, his servant.
The plot of the play consists of mistaken assumptions of people’s identities in a series of comical encounters. There are scenes of one Antipholus’ wife angry that her husband didn’t come home to dinner (of course she mistakes her husband for his twin), issues with paying a jewelry maker for a chain, one Antipholus asking a different Dromio for something, the wrong Antipholus falling in love with his twin’s wife’s sister, and so on and so forth. These series of hilarious, dramatic, clear and perfectly slapstick mistakes makes the play truly live up to its name.
The quirky, outlandish and magical world of Ephesus was brought to life through the amazing sounds and music of the play. For example, every time someone used the word “ass,” we hear the bleating of a donkey. When there is a ridiculous romantic moment, the audienceheard “Careless Whisper” in the background.
The play’s world was not only set through the beautiful clothing and the hilarious sound cues, but also in the quippy asides, add-ins and improvised moments. When the minute Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse (played by Bianca Davis ’21 and Moses Young ’22) entered, their chemistry glowed. Of course, Antipholus did not beat his servant, but rather sprayed him with a water gun when he misbehaved. I absolutely love the idea of a Shakespeare show that uses the word “squirted” many, many times. Especially when in addition to the use of “vibe,” “rad” and “bruh.” Davis takes moments with the audience where she breaks the fourth wall and levels with the crowd in Antipholus’s confusion and angst. Her strength as an actor was obvious through the powerful depiction of this role.
The play was not only hilarious, but ended up being surprisingly touching due to the grounded, intentional and strong acting along with the beautiful set, and perfectly timed sound effects. The cast and crew were able to breathe life into this old show despite all the COVID-19-related odds working against them.