As its title would imply, Saturday night's performance of Shakespeare's Comedy Of Errors, Oct. 6, in the Campus Theatre, was a mistake. However, there was not too much to laugh at either-bad theatre has a tendency to merely make one wince.
The story revolves around a set of identical twins who are separated at birth and unknowingly wind up inhabiting the same small town at a later age. They are continuously mistaken for one another by the town's befuddled citizens, and to add to the confusion, each has a servant who are identical twins as well.
Director Gary Gardner tried gratuitously to liven up the already lighthearted farce by using a 1920s sound stage motif characters were clad in silent movie costumes and makeup, and Keystone cop replicas were used, however ineffectively as speechless, animated props.
Apparently Gardner failed to realize that Comedy Of Errors literary classic-not just an old play in need of sprucing up.
In its original form, Errors is as fresh and witty now (as is much of Shakespeare's work) as it was when it was written. Ultimately, the presumptuous additions to the dialogue and the brazen misuse of artistic license were not to the play's credit.
For example, some of the main points were illustrated by the characters slipping into "Three's Company"-style dialogue and saying things like "Oh, I'm so confused!" and "Badges! We don't need no stinkin' badges!"
This was indeed degrading to Shakespeare's original text, as well as an inconsistency.
Overall the acting was poor. Too often actors slipped into sing-song dialogue, reciting words as a child would recite the alphabet, instead of emphasizing and separating each crucial sentence. An in depth lesson in iambic verse would have done the cast a lot of good. Laura Orlow and Julie Guevara were the only two who seemed at ease with the Shakespearan dialect; others tried to bury their uncertainties beneath heavy southern drawls and quirky vocal inflections.
Compounding the inherent flaws of this production, audience messages displayed on an overhead screen could not be read from the back row, and much of the performance's lines were delivered too quickly.
Most of the laughs derived from this comedy were directed at bland physical comedy and sexual innuendo, as was the case when one of the characters had his groin measured.
Amazingly, the end product was well received by the audience, although response was often minimal throughout the play. Too many ideas not thought out confused most people, while all the details that were never attended to in pre-production spoke to the audience louder than the actors.
Perhaps then, the kind folks were applauding out of sheer graciousness, or maybe they just didn't know what else to do.