Ask Philippa: “Comedy of Errors” Edition

Philippa Kelly, Resident Dramaturg for Cal Shakes, invites your questions about The Comedy of Errors, which runs June 25–July 20. Tickets on sale now.

The Comedy of Errors, one of Shakespeare’s earliest plays, is a beautiful, festive comic treat about losing yourself and then finding yourself again. The play is Shakespeare’s shortest, first staged at the Inns of Court as part of an evening’s entertainment. Two sets of identical twins, both lost—one pair (twin plus master) settled prosperously in the city of Ephesus, the other pair alighting on Epheus after seven years of wandering. Add to this a wife, a suitor, and a long-lost set of parents—and here, in all its perverse comic confusions, we have a comedy: one that would set a template for Shakespeare’s future capacity to enchant, entertain, and philosophically provoke.

Are you going to see our production of The Comedy of Errors?  Do you have questions or comments about the production’s cast, themes, creative choices, or anything else? Please leave them in the comments, and I’ll be sure to respond.

Headshot of Philippa Kelly

Resident Dramaturg Philippa Kelly. Photo by Richard Friedman.

Dr Philippa Kelly, Resident Dramaturg for the California Shakespeare Theater, is also a professor and author. Her 2010 book, The King and I, a meditation on Australian culture through the lens of King Lear, garnered international praise in its very personal examination of themes of abandonment, loss, and humor).

You can email Philippa at, or post below to ask her a question.

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10 Responses to Ask Philippa: “Comedy of Errors” Edition

  1. Yana B says:

    Is the performace good for kids 6+ ?


  2. philippa kelly says:

    Oh Yana, it is beautiful! It is full of merriment and beauty. It is also short – I think your kids will love it. Please come introduce your kids to me in the grove!!!

  3. Maybe I’m weird but do you at all detect maybe a slight tragic component to the identity confusion?: certainly an obsession of Shakespeare’s throughout the plays.

    • philippa kelly says:

      Yes, Michael, I do – in fact I think Shakespeare felt that this play could be so comic because it was a hair’s breadth away from tragic potentials

  4. Steve says:

    We attended your gallon I the groove before the play tonight.
    Had were not done this, I would be lost.
    Thanks. Really enjoying the play.

    • philippa kelly says:

      Thank you so much, Steve. Also, I love your new spelling – like Shakespear’s day! Let’s all go back to unregulated spelling! Actually you’ll love this next play, Pygmalion, for many reasons – but for one of which is that George Bernard Shaw campaigned to simplify spelling and make it more equivalent to how words actually sound!

  5. Karen says:

    Ms. Kelly, we’ve been enjoying your Grove talks for years–many thanks for your insights!

    We very much enjoyed last night’s performance, and your talk beforehand. You talked a bit about the meaning of different character’s names and I wondered if the father, Aegeon’s, name had any significance? I recognize that the spelling is different than the Aegean Sea, but I wondered if there still might be a connection?

  6. J.S.S. says:

    Dear Philippa, We love your Grove talks and were delighted with Aaron Posner’s production of “Comedy.” But we felt your rather terse answer about possibilities of tandem productions with Rodgers & Hart’s comedic version gave short shrift to the musical comedy progeny of Shakespeare. “The Boys from Syracuse” and “Kiss Me Kate” both stand as literate, witty versions of “Comedy” and “Shrew..” Harold Bloom describes the adaptation of “Comedy” in “Boys from Syracuse” as splendid in his work “Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human.” Of course a back to back production might be overly long, but it’s certainly worked in opera (Cavelleria Rusticana, for instance, is often paired).

    • philippa kelly says:

      Oh, I feel bad that I came across as terse! Please forgive this attitude – the reason was that I’ve never seen the Boys from Syracuse. I should have said that – I can’t believe in fact that I’ve never see it, as it is so famous. And I WILL go watch it!!! By the way, have you ever seen Clueless? It is the most amazing adaptation of Emma (Austen). I’d love to know what you think. I’ve watched it about 5 times!

  7. philippa kelly says:

    Hi Karen,
    The Aegeon is one of the three seas separating Syracuse and Ephesus – so that could well be a trigger for the name. Although the original spelling of it in the First Folio was Egeon. This is where the ‘originals’ of Shakespeare’s plays get so tricky – because we don’t know who changed what in the printing processes. But I love your idea. And I also so very much appreciate you mentioning that you enjoyed the grove talk. I so love doing them and having that brief window where we bond, as a group, in anticipation of the play.

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