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School of Drama: The Comedy of Errors

There are some bonds so powerful that neither time nor distance can break them.

The Carnegie Mellon School of Drama’s production of William Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, directed by Don Wadsworth, spoke true to this theme, delighting the audience with a hilarious tale of countless near misses, bizarre coincidences, and outrageous scenarios. And, as with any Shakespeare play, there was no shortage of slapstick humor and unsubtle sexual jokes.

The play follows two pairs: Antipholus of Ephesus (Will Harrison) and his servant Dromio of Ephesus (played by Sam O’Byrne), and Antipholus of Syracuse (Scott Kennedy) and his servant Dromio of Syracuse (Jasjit Williams-Singh). In an opening monologue given by Egeon (Harry Thornton), we learn that the two identical Antipholuses and the two identical Dromios were separated at birth due to a ship accident, with one of each sent to Syracuse and Ephesus respectively.

When Antipholus of Syracuse and Dromio of Syracuse arrive at the Bay of Ephesus, the shenanigans start immediately with the Antipholuses and Dromios being constantly mistaken for each other, leading to all sorts of confusion among the locals: not only do the merchants confuse the two Antipholuses which leads to financial complications, the wife of Antipholus of Ephesus mistakes Antipholus of Syracuse for her husband, which is only made worse by the fact that the wrong Antipholus just decides to play along for fun. Despite the twins constantly bumping into each other, it is not until the very end of the play that they truly recognize each other and acknowledge their twin’s existence, making for a moment of fulfillment and a happy ending.

The play was marvelous, with each character playing their role with palpable passion. While each actor gave a stellar performance, the two Dromios were the most outstanding: O’Byrne and Williams-Singh play the jester-type characters with such swagger and exaggeration — at one point crawling around the stage and braying like a donkeys — that everything they did had the audience laughing along. Not only that, the dynamic between the Antipholuses and Dromios was equally charming, as there was always a mismatch between which Antipholus and Dromio was on stage at the same time, leading to misunderstandings that evolved into playful fights and histrionic outbursts. Harrison and Kennedy were magnetic, and they dominated the stage, playing along with the Dromios and driving the narrative when present with other characters.

The actors aside, the set design was nothing short of spectacular. While other School of Drama productions such as The Way Out West and Detroit '67 featured more static sets, The Comedy of Errors featured beautifully made buildings and fully functional mechanisms such as the central clock tower and a door covered in interactive gizmos. Actors also took advantage of the stage’s features with characters entering from both sides, above, and below. Scene transitions, unlike other plays which use the fade-to-black method, instead featured pleasant segments of cello music with actors dashing across the stage, conveying the transition of time in a more dynamic and meaningful way.

Overall, the play was excellently done, as all School of Drama productions are. Despite the dialogue being difficult to understand at times (it is Shakespeare after all), the story was still accessible and enthralling. If you get the chance, I highly recommend checking this one out!