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Cappies: Francis Howell brings 'Comedy of Errors' to life

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 14, 2012 - Where would find a nun, a prostitute, a shirt-hating doctor/conjurer, and two pairs of identical twins running around confusing everyone? Why, a Shakespearean comedy of course! Last Friday, Francis Howell High School treated the audience with a belly-busting performance of Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors.”

William Shakespeare wrote his shortest and one of his most farcical plays, “The Comedy of Errors,” early in his career. Shakespeare’s classic theme of mistaken identity comes to play, as two pairs of identical twins separated at birth come to the same town and create mayhem. Antipholus and his servant Dromio of Syracuse travel to Ephesus, where, unbeknownst to them, their twins Antipholus and his servant Dromio of Ephesus live! A multitude of crazy mishaps ensue: arrests, seduction, madness, accusations of infidelity, and an attempted exorcism. by Ellen Wright of Mary Institute St. Louis Country Day School

Francis Howell wonderfully melded classic Shakespeare with their very own modern twists, incorporating slang such as “my bad!” and adding a hilarious narrator to unravel the sometimes difficult language. The energetic actors clearly had studied their lines and fully understood them. A few technical details could, however, have been worked out. Actors would occasionally have their backs to the audience or discard lines, thereby lowering the energy of a scene. Some interactions had not been practiced enough to make them believable.

The eccentric narrator played by Cidney Woodson started the show with an explosion of energy and enthusiasm as she interacted with the audience as though she was best friends with everyone in the room. Katie Angeli and Tina Donnelly kept the laughs coming as they played the two jester servants Dromio of Syracuse and Dromio of Ephesus, each was clearly thrilled with their comedic roles and enjoyed jumping and running around onstage. Their scenes with their masters Antipholus of Syracuse and Antipholus of Ephesus, as played by Clayton Humburg and Danny Junkel, had great interaction, each feeding off the other’s energy and building upon it.

The tech department could perhaps have used a little work. They should be congratulated on building a working fountain in the middle of the set, and making sure the lighting never left the actors faces in shadow, however, the choice of costuming was confusing. Each individual costume looked nice, but had no common theme, as some looked to be 1950s style while others seemed modern. The set was sturdy, allowing characters to bang on it, yet the artwork on the walls was sparse.

What was perhaps most appealing about Francis Howell’s production of “The Comedy of Errors” was the message it imparted on the audience. They knew that many people are wary of Shakespeare, and used this show as a means of giving them an appreciation for the master playwright.

Ellen Wright is a student at Mary Institute St. Louis Country Day School. Cappies is a program that works with high school writers who review high school productions.

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