Dallas — I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall during rehearsal when Raphael Parry, Director of Shakespeare Dallas’ The Comedy of Errors, now playing through July 15 at Samuell-Grand Amphitheatre, let the cast know that their play would indeed include ninjas.
But ninjas are not the only thematic surprises in the first show of Shakespeare Dallas’ summer season.
The ancient Greek city of Ephesus, where the play unfolds in a single day, is billed as “the land of lost 1970’s television characters.” The play begins with Dame Solinus (Camille Monae) in a Ricardo Montalban à la Fantasy Island style suit (designed by Jen J. Madison) passing a death sentence on Egeon (T.A. Taylor) for appearing in Ephesus, as Syracusans are forbidden the city. Egeon apparently doesn’t know about the law because he has wandered the earth for the last five years searching for his missing son Antipholus (Ethan Norris), who in turn is searching for his missing identical twin brother and mother, with the help of his servant Dromio (David Novinski) who also has an identical twin brother who serves Antipholus’ identical twin brother. And yes, you need to take a deep breath after that paragraph.
This being a Shakespearean comedy, Egeon’s son Antipholus of Syracuse and his servant Dromio, arrive in Ephesus after a Fantasy Island homage and dressed in Dallas and Gilligan’s Island costumes. Little do they know, but their missing family members and Antipholus’ father are also in Ephesus.
Mistaken identity scenes then abound (really too many to go into). But like most Shakespeare comedies we get the happy ending with a family reunited, a marriage in the offing (between Antipholus of Syracuse and his sister-in-law), and Egeon and his long lost wife Amelia reunited.
But what you want to know is: Does Parry and his cast pull it off? The answer is a resounding yes! The beauty of this production is that by weaving pop culture icons into the play, the newcomer feels instantly more attuned to the characters. If you have seen a bit of Dallas, or Mork and Mindy, or The Mary Tyler Moore Show, you need to do a little less heavy lifting (initially) in understanding the characters of the play. If you are a Shakespeare buff, you get a treat in a new, colorful and vibrant rendition of Shakespeare’s first comedy.
Donna Marquet’s set design works wonderfully to allow for pacing and surprises with Family Feud and Let’s Make a Deal gags, while Adam Chamberlin’s light design and Marco Salinas’ sound design and music allow for subtle changes in tone. There’s a lot going on here, with lighting, special effects, music and coordinating the physical comedy. Brava and bravo to the technical staff for pulling it off seamlessly.
As to the individual actors, this play relies heavily on Ethan Norris’ two Antipholuses and David Novinski’s Dromios. Both do a wonderful job playing off each other, with Norris keeping the tempo quick while still showing enough understandable confusion for the situation he finds himself in. Novinski is seemingly built for this part as he’s able to maintain a frenetic comic pacing, astounding physical comedy and certainly a most unexpected but delightful Trump impression that played to huge laughs—among many he earned on opening night.
Anastasia Muñoz as Adriana, Antipholus of Ephesus’ wife, and Whitney Holotik as her sister, also work beautifully together and illuminate not only the frustrations of mistaken identity, but also of an underappreciated (and understandably suspicious) wife. Kudos as well to Holotik and Norris’ mid-play dance scene (choreographed by Sara J. Romersberger).
Isaac Young as the flamboyant gold dealer Angelo is delightful. Alison Sloan in her debut with Shakespeare Dallas is terrific as the Courtesan. Jeremiah Johnson as the officer (and more) demonstrates solid comic chops. Camille Monae as Genie (yes, that Genie) is fantastic in this role, but seems a bit uncomfortable in the role as the Dame of Ephesus.
T.A. Taylor as Egeon misses the mark. He’s the most experienced cast member, a fixture in the local theater scene and was wonderful last season in Titus Andronicus. In Comedy of Errors he approaches the role in a problematic way. His Egeon is defiant and angry, the opposite of what one would expect of a father who has suffered so much, who is sentenced to death and whose last lines in the opening scene are so fatalistic: “Hopeless and helpless doth Egeon wend, but to procrastinate his lifeless end.”
Overall, though, this is a thoroughly enjoyable play given a production that complements Shakespeare’s prose and makes for a lovely summer night with Shakespeare Dallas.
The Comedy of Errors runs in repertory with another comedy, The Taming of the Shrew. Below is the schedule:
- The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare. Runs Saturdays, Sundays, and Tuesdays at 8:15 p.m. through July 15
- The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare. Run Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays at 8:15 p.m. through July 13
- Junior Players presents Romeo and Juliet June 24-29
- Mondays are dark