Perhaps your college English lit professor told you there are only seven plots in literature. The entire list escapes me at the moment, but I do remember that the archetypal "Identical-Twins-With-the-Same-Name-and-Same-Taste-in-Clothes-Are-Confused-for-Each-Other" plot comes right after "Boy-Meets-Girl." Enter a little-known writer named William Shakespeare and his mistaken-identity script, The Comedy of Errors, currently at Huntington Beach Playhouse.
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Director Beverly Turner has put together an inventive, if not entirely successful, take on this proto-sitcom. The city of Ephesus is now New York City in the heyday of the disco '70s, complete with dance numbers, disco balls, afros and the Village People. There are a few anachronisms—at least one piece of music and one minor character are from the '80s, for example—but these are easy to forgive. The crowd scenes and minor characters are a fountainhead of sight gags and truly twisted concepts (Ephesus is full of pimps, mimes and Mafiosi), but this tends to overshadow the main characters. To put it in short form: do not upstage Dromio.
Turner also made the odd decision to give the twins Dromio and twins Antipholus vastly different mannerisms and speech patterns. Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse (Evan Winet and Carl daSilva) are almost annoyingly happy in the face of increasing confusion, whereas Antipholus and Dromio of Ephesus (Jack Millis and Norman Wilson) are sullen and bitter and have much thicker accents. When the theme of the play is mistaken identity, giving these characters such radically different personalities arguably serves to undercut the script.
Still, Turner should be given credit for making a bold choice that gives the scholarly theater-snob audience member (like me) something to talk about over an after-show coffee. Other audience members will find themselves caught up by the energy of a cast that really looks as if it's having fun. And as with any comedy, that may be the most important thing.
Comedy of Errors at the Huntington Beach Playhouse, 7111 Talbert Ave., Huntington Beach, (714) 375-0696. Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. Through July 2. $10-$13; $5 student tickets on Thursdays.