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KCDC’s Comedy of Errors puts a 1940s twist on Shakespeare

While William Shakespeare’s play The Comedy of Errors contains a long series of mistakes, its production by the Kenyon College Dance & Dramatic Club (KCDC) consisted of many great choices. The mainstage production at the Bolton Theater last weekend brought out the slapstick humor and feel-good charm of Shakespeare’s shortest play, which focuses on two sets of identical twins who are continually mistaken for one another. The play, directed by Thomas S. Turgeon Professor of Drama Jonathan Tazewell, ran from Thursday, April 6 to Saturday, April 9.

The comedic brilliance of Jasmine Manuel ’17 and Miles Shebar ’20 dominated the show. Manuel played Dromio of Syracuse while Shebar played Dromio of Ephesus. Both Dromios are unlucky manservants who are routinely beaten by various characters. Shebar’s ability to jump and move around the stage led the cast to joke that he is made of rubber. One scene featured Shebar being beaten by a trout, and another had him making puns while his master was bound by rope. Shebar and Manuel managed to make Shakespeare’s language not only accessible but also hilarious. Incidentally, both actors have acted in other productions of this play before. At summer camp, Shebar took part in a rap version of the play called Bombitty of Errors.

Other members of the cast pulled their weight as well. Henry Nash ’18 and Ez Raider-Roth ’19 performed admirably as foils to Manuel and Shebar. Jibri McLean ’17 brought energy to the character Solinus, the Duke of Syracuse, whose main role in the play is to provide exposition.

Manuel cited a deep understanding of the language as crucial to making her role come alive. Table reads with the whole cast helped her understand each of her lines fully.

“If we understand it, then we can make it so the audience understands it,” Manuel said. “And so we went through and we talked about what exactly we were saying with these. When we did that it was like, ‘Oh, this becomes much simpler.’”

The show’s costuming — by Jackie Dicks ’19, Lydia Felty ’17, also the art director for the Collegian, Lucas O’Brien ’18 and Anthony Tellez ’17 — was cartoonishly fun. The character Balthasar, played by Jeffrey Searls ’19, wore a striking red suit. As a courtesan, Mollie Greenberg ’19 was outfitted with an enormous cigar. The set, designed by Technical Director in the Department of Dance and Drama Chris Ellsworth, was also brilliant; it consisted of three two-story buildings. A band played Cuban music between scenes.

As the director, Tazewell managed to keep rehearsals enjoyable while remaining productive. “He’s hardworking but he knows that it should be fun,” Seth Reichert ’17 said. “He knows it only really works if people want to be at rehearsal. I think he does it really well.”

At the Saturday night production, the Bolton Theater was about half full of patrons. Cheers from the audience suggested the performance certainly won over the crowd.