Theatre & Opera Magazine

Review: The Comedy of Errors (Piccolo Theatre)

Posted on the 14 September 2011 by Chicagotheaterbeat @chitheaterbeat


Comedy of Errors - Piccolo Theatre

The Comedy of Errors

Written by William Shakespeare 
Directed by Christopher Marino
at Evanston Arts Depot, 600 Main Street (map)
thru Oct 22   |   tickets: $22-$25  |   more info

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Big production on a tiny stage


The Comedy of Errors - Piccolo Theatre

Piccolo Theatre presents



Review by J.H. Palmer

William Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors is playing at the aptly named Piccolo Theatre, which is so small I walked past it three times before figuring out that it’s inside the Main Street Metra station in Evanston. To get to the theater, you must walk down the east side of the Metra stop, where ushers direct you up the stairs, through the depot, and into the diminutive theater space. There’s no room for passive viewers; with just enough room for a small horseshoe configuration of chairs and a few more rows near the theater entrance, audience members can expect direct eye contact with the players at minimum, with the possibility of having an actor sit next to you in an empty seat during the show, or accidentally step on your toes while making a stage exit.

I was struck by the ingenious use of space; while the stage couldn’t be more than about 50 square feet, the problem of how to create a stage left and a stage right is solved with the use of fancifully painted wheeled wardrobes large enough to hold two people at a time, enabling easy movement and creating a sense of boundlessness in the piece. Not only has the theater figured out the answer to the question of staging, they also manage to stake out enough space for live musicians, which adds an aural dimension to the play that is as present as the actors themselves. The added music of the Metra train pulling into the station mere feet away, and seeming to arrive at key moments of drama, adds to the innate sense of absurdity in the play.

The minute you cross the threshold into the theater reality is suspended; actors dressed in costumes that are reminiscent at once of Tim Burton and Edward Gorey lope around the stage, making direct contact with audience members with gestures like offering popcorn from a bag, or holding a measuring tape up and exclaiming “very nice.”

The plot, which relies on multiple cases of mistaken identity, is established at the beginning of the play through the use of dolls that represent the two sets of infant twins who are separated at birth, and dioramic scenes staged in the painted wardrobes, which are opened and closed like a series of advent calendar doors. Several cast members play more than one role, and are sometimes unrecognizable in their different costumes apart from their voice. Max Ganet and Joe Bianco play the Antipholus twins, and Michael Coale and Nick Amdor play the Dromio twins. The Dromio twins resembled each other so closely (to my nearsightedness at least), that at times the only way I could tell them apart was by which arm was bandaged (one of them has a bandage on the right arm, the other on the left.) The Antipholus twins are less identical, which makes it easier to keep track of who is being mistaken for whom. The acting is tight throughout, with standout performances by Kaitlin Chin as Abbess/Emelia and Vanessa Hughes as the Courtesan.

Piccolo literally brings Shakespeare into your face; the actor’s soliloquies are as impressive for their length as they are for their interpretation by this high-energy cast. The action, which is never slow, reaches madcap proportions; by the final scene I felt as though I’d spent the last couple of hours on roller skates!


Rating: ★★★


Piccolo Theatre’s The Comedy of Errors continues through October 22nd at the Evanston Arts Depot, 600 Main St, Evanston (map), with performances at 8pm on Fridays and Saturdays, and 3pm on Sundays. Tickets are $25 for adults, with discounts for seniors and students. More information at (Running time: 2 hours with one 10-minute intermission)




Max Ganet (Antipholus of Ephesus), Joe Bianco (Antipholus of Syracuse), Michael Coale (Dromio of Syracuse), Nick Amdor (Dromio of Ephesus), Berner Taylor (Adriana), Nicole Keating (Luciana), Vanessa Hughes (Cortesan), Kaitlyn Chin (Abbess/Emelia), Jason Martin (Egeon/Balthazar), David W.M. Kelch (Duke/Pinch), Glenn Proud (1st Merchant, Angelo), Rob Grabowski (2nd Merchant, Luce), Joshua Razavi (Jailer/Officer)

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