Director Barbara Gaines transports Shakespeare to the golden age of film as an eccentric group of stage and screen actors gather on the fictional English movie set of Shepperton Studios in the midst of the London blitz to film The Comedy of Errors.
Backstage antics abound as the onstage story of Antipholus and his servant Dromio unfolds. Mistaken identities make for hilarious complications as the two men search for their identical twins lost since infancy. In the end, chaos gives way to clarity and one long, baffling day on the set makes for a short, bewitching—and joyous—visit to the theater.
Approximate Running Time: 2 hours, 45 minutes (includes intermission)
"A funny affair, directed by Gaines with great gusto. You’ll all have a jolly good laugh!"
"If you're not sure you like Shakespeare, then this is the show to see. After you've experienced this "Comedy," you can't help but become a big fan of the Bard!"
"An artistic triumph! Director Barbara Gaines’ deft comic hand has never been so confident, and writer Ron West effortlessly generates clever dialogue and compromising situations that add resonance and depth."
"Witty fun... the cast is smart, resourceful and energetic!"
Funding courtesy of The Trust for Courtyard Theater Programming, established by a generous leadership grant from the McCormick Tribune Foundation.
Team Shakespeare Student Matinees are sponsored by Kraft Foods and Nuveen Investments, with additional underwriting provided by Baxter International Inc.
The Comedy of Errors is presented in the Jentes Family Auditorium.
Egeon has sailed the seas for five years in search of his son. Harbored in Ephesus, where Syracusans are strictly forbidden, he is arrested on sight and sentenced for execution that very night—unless he can pay the hefty ransom.
Egeon tells his sad story to all who will listen. Long ago he and his wife, their infant twin sons and twin servants were shipwrecked and separated. Egeon, with one son named Antipholus and his servant named Dromio, were rescued and returned to Syracuse; his wife and the other two boys were never seen again. Eighteen years later, Antipholus and Dromio set out from Syracuse in search of their missing brothers. Egeon had not seen them since they left five years ago.
As luck would have it, that very same morning those same two young men arrive in Ephesus. And by another strange stroke of fate, Antipholus's twin (also named Antipholus) has been living in Ephesus for years with his servant—named Dromio... To everybody who comes upon one twin or another—including Adriana, Antipholus of Ephesus's wife—the brothers are indistinguishable, and mistaken identity, misadventure and mishap turn the once-ordered life of Ephesus topsy-turvy.
As the visitors grow ever more certain that this strange land is bewitched, the natives draw their own conclusions. All hope of sanity seems lost—until an Abbess with knowledge of life beyond the cloistered walls amazes residents of and visitors to Ephesus alike.
-Contributed by the CST Education Department
A Scholar’s Perspective by Ralph Williams
Ralph Williams examines the place of comedy in times of war, and how it does more than take our minds off our troubles.
A Scholar’s Perspective by Clark Hulse
Clark Hulse explains his particular seven theories of comedy.
Recorded Excerpts from Talk Back Discussions
Post-show discussions with the cast are held after Wednesday and student matinees. Recordings are updated throughout the run of the production.
Open Door: Audience Enrichment Programs
CST offers pre- and post-show programs with members of the cast or scholars: PreAmbles, Pub Cast Calls and Talk Backs.
Director Barbara Gaines and writer Ron West have set The Comedy of Errors on a film studio in London during World War II. The company is shooting Shakespeare’s comedy to help the morale of the soldiers and civilians, who are being bombed daily by the German Luftwaffe in what became known as the Blitz.
Shakespeare based The Comedy of Errors on The Menaechmi, by the Roman playwright Plautus, who tells the story of a Syracusean merchant, the father of identical twin sons. After one of the twins is kidnapped, his infant brother is renamed in his memory, and years later as an adult goes to search for his lost identical twin.
The stage history of The Comedy of Errors could be compared to that of the late comedic actor Rodney Dangerfield. It gets no respect—and there, in some ways, lies the key to its success.
Scholars, Authors and Artists on The Comedy of Errors
Straight-out farce or a more complex vision of life's instability? Since the late 1500s, many voices have weighed in, included Coleridge, Swinburne and Dowden.
A portal to the world of Shakespeare, these selected internet sites lead further into the exploration of Shakespeare in performance, his life and times, the original texts, and much more.
See who’s who among the actors, with their bios, headshots and resumes.
The Creative Team
See who’s who on the creative team—the director, designers and other artists who contribute to the creation of the world of the play.
A Conversation with Writer Ron West
Ron West collaborated with director Barbara Gaines to create the Shepperton Studio scenes that frame The Comedy of Errors. In an email correspondence, West gets into the very personal nature of this work.
Using Personal Research
An artist’s inspiration may come from anywhere, but some times it takes years to find its form. Director Barbara Gaines has fond childhood memories of times spent on sound studios with her father, Mickey Schwarz, who was a director of commercials and television. The idea of setting a production of The Comedy of Errors in a film studio occurred to Gaines years ago, and the period and place came together as she was reading the autobiography of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill some years later. Gaines drew on her personal associations in the conception and rehearsal process for this production. She brought in a few photos of her father at work to help the actors understand one of her inspirations for the production.
Preview the Costume Designs
See some of Costume Designer Ana Kuzmanic's sketches for CST's The Comedy of Errors. Kuzmanic returns to Chicago Shakespeare Theater, where her credits include How Can You Run With a Shell on Your Back?, and the Short Shakespeare! productions of Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew, Macbeth and The Comedy of Errors. Other Chicago credits include costume designs for August: Osage County (at Steppenwolf Theater and on Broadway at the Imperial Theater); King Lear, directed by Robert Falls, and The Cook (Goodman Theatre); Argonautika (Lookingglass Theatre Company, directed by Mary Zimmerman); and The Sparrow (The House Theatre).
The Songs in the Production
The show features cast members singing jazz standards from the 40s, live on stage.