Last Friday night at John Burroughs High School Auditorium, we all laughed ourselves silly over Shakespeare’s delightful farce, The Comedy of Errors. And you know what’s really funny? For high school ticket prices, we enjoyed one of the best shows in greater LA in a studio-quality venue. JBHS drama students are consistently punching way above their weight, delivering performances worthy of college seniors.
So be sure to catch their Saturday night or Sunday afternoon performance this weekend.
The set up: The Comedy of Errors centers on two sets of identical twins. They were separated when very young and so each twin is unaware of the other. Years later, one set of twins –Antipholus of Syracuse and his servant Dromio–arrive in Ephesus. Coincidentally, Ephesus is home to the other set of twins. Coincidentally, the twins from Ephesus have exactly the same names as their counterparts from Syracuse. Comedy tonight!
Director GUY MYERS made the inspired choice of retaining the original dialogue and cadences of Shakespeare, while making the instrumental music a wiseacre Greek chorus of today’s pop tunes. Guy knew that his actors could handle the iambic pentameter, which they did brilliantly, getting across every one of Shakespeare’s zingers. And the music allowed the actors to further showcase their comedic gifts.
There were wonderful instances of physical comedy, even in the details. What might have been a routine scene change in other performances became instead a bit that drew bursts of laughter. What might have been stereotypical wailing and weeping instead became a running gag. Even the sword fight had the comedic flair of a classic Zorro movie.
Senior SAWYER PATTERSON (playing Antipholus of Ephesus) and junior DANIEL BEIMFORD (Antipholus of Syracuse) do a super job of portraying two men used to being in control, but now being thrown into confusion with blustering as their Plan B coping strategy.
Senior JAMES CONKLE (Dromio of Ephesus) and Junior NICK APOSTOLINA (Dromio of Syracuse) both do tremendous jobs as the servants who think their masters have gone mad. Nick, who was the tragic protagonist of Flowers For Algernon, showed us in The Comedy of Errors that he can pin the needle of the laugh meter and wrap it around itself. (Especially in scenes with MAX FRANCIS, who plays Adriana’s towering kitchen maid.)
Other standout performers include MATT BOND (Egeon, father of the Antipholus twins) who got the play off to a laughing start. MADISON MAYER (Adriana, wife of Antipholus of Ephesus) made you believe she was a much older woman suddenly having to confront all her insecurities, and being strong enough to do so. SAMANTHA RUBIN gave us a courtesan who doesn’t take any guff, to great effect. And MINA SHADRICK (sister to Adriana) manages to keep her head while everyone around her seems to be losing theirs, and keeps the comedy going as well.
Everyone in the cast, even those with the most minor roles, held up their end and did solid work. They filled out their marvelous costumes and lived up to the major-theatre-quality lighting and sound.
They also made clear the subtext of the play. We’re shown a world where women are second-class citizens and the routine beating of servants is considered normal. But the mix up of the two sets of twins leads to commands seemingly not being followed and women having to, however briefly, take charge. Underneath the comedy is the fragility of such a society and those who presumably run it. When the mix up is revealed at the end of the play, Guy makes another great call by making the sighs of relief palpable. The comedy or errors is over and the people of Ephesus can go back to pursuing their customary, not-so-comedic errors of their ways.
The Comedy of Errors continues today, May 9 at 7:00 p.m. and tomorrow, May 10 at 2 p.m. at the John Burroughs High School Auditorium located at 1920 W. Clark Avenue in Burbank. Tickets are $12 general admission, $8 for students, faculty and seniors. Tickets may be purchased in advance via this link.