Dex Edwards’ production of Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors” opens the Ole Miss theater season with a laugh-out-loud production that is easy to follow, immensely entertaining and only 90 minutes long, including intermission.
As the title states, the show is a farcical comedy filled with mistaken identity and sprinkled with sexual innuendo.
In short, the story is about twin boys (with the same name) separated early in life who happen to have identical servants (who also have the same name).
How could that get confusing?
With a cast upward of two dozen (plus the 10 or so crew members darting about), the show is full of life and energy, with constant, and often quite humorous, action in the background holding the audience in the scene. Mix that with the multiple levels scattered in all directions, the ornate proscenium framing the shot, and an acute eye for detail, and Edwards’ simplistic but functional design brings you into the streets of 1820 Turkey.
What the buildings lack in color, the costumes cover brilliantly. Deep, rich colors flow when the women walk and beautifully constructed vests and hats on the men pop against the buildings of Ephesus. Designed by Carey Hanson, interim chair of the theater department, the costumes bring a new depth to the stage and complete the transformation from Oxford to olden days.
Much like the Elizabethan period when the script was written, this show is predominately ruled by men. The cast is almost all male, but a few of the men attracted more attention than the rest, keeping the audience in stitches and taking command of the stage.
Jeremy Cooper, junior and recent transfer to the University of Mississippi, maneuvers a wide range of emotions as Antipholus of Ephesus and nails every one. From humor to anger to compassion, Cooper delivers a standout first performance, which is hopefully just a preview of the future of his Ole Miss career.
Greg Earnest, teacher at Oxford Middle School, blends in with the coeds as Cooper’s twin, Antipholus of Syracuse, but his energy visibly dips below that of his surrounding support.
The intention and fervor for the stage and his understanding of the difficult language is still quite apparent, but the drop can cause some scenes to lag.
Sophomore Logan Little and senior Christopher Young work together seamlessly as the carbon copy servants and are easily the most memorable character.
Between Young flying through the air and Little brandishing a sword, the movement of the two is nonstop, and the foolish happenings trigger quite a reaction from the crowd. Young uses his quick wit to give his character a snappy edge, while Little relies mostly on his strengths in physical comedy.
Each gives a great performance respectively, and the two harmonize to create many of the uproarious moments. While acting usually defines a show, enough cannot be said about the perfection of the technical aspects.
Paul Kennedy’s lights set the mood with shadows of trees and subtle transitions, focusing always on the action while leaving enough light to expose the foolishness happening around it.
The sounds decreed by Johnathan Lee don’t interrupt the performance, as music often can, but rather the melodic measures intertwined with the beauty of the language enhance the energy of the scene, and even elicit a few laughs.
Once again, Edwards takes the typical and transforms it into the extraordinary, making Shakespeare a little less intimidating and bringing quality (and affordable) entertainment to town for a limited engagement only. The comical and intelligent show is a perfect season opener that could be a tough act to follow, but nothing less is expected when it’s directed by Edwards.
“The Comedy of Errors” is running Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., along with a matinee Sunday at 2 p.m. in Fulton Chapel.
Tickets are $12.50 for adults, $9 for children and seniors, and $8 for UM students with a valid ID.
They can be purchased at the UM Box Office in the Student Union, online at olemiss.edu/depts/tickets or by calling 662-915-7411.
From DM by Amelia Camurati