No one knows how William Shakespeare, were he alive today, would react upon seeing the cast of Comedy of Errors, dressed in punk-rock costumes. But for the collaborators who masterminded the production presently touring throughout Colorado, the outrageous regalia is a quintessential ingredient to what many people consider Shakespeare's first masterpiece.
"The punk costumes reflect the chaos within the play," guest director Richard Crawford says.
A graduate of Paris' International Theatre School of Jacques Lecoq and a professor at the State University of New York at Purchase, Crawford took six of his best students and brought them to Colorado to collaborate with local actors for the Shakespearean production.
"It's a wonderful success and a step forward for theater in Colorado Springs," he says. "I'm proud to have given birth to the collaboration."
Murray Ross, artistic director of Theatreworks, says that because Shakespeare's plays take place largely on a bare stage, conveyance of the plot and story line to the audience depends solely on language and dress.
"One nice thing about the punk world is that it really does have a look," Ross says, laughing. "It has its own coherent style.
"It's a kind of crazy, disturbing, funny, wacky world The Comedy of Errors and I think all of those qualities are satisfied by the punk designs."
The show, Shakespeare's shortest comedy, is built around a complex plot involving twin brothers separated at birth and now in search of one another. Ross says the messy series of events that unravels, combined with the play's setting, calls for loose interpretation.
"Shakespeare himself often set his plays in exotic and strange lands," he says. "Just the whole idea that he would set his play on a coastal town in Turkey is an invitation to create a kind of exotic, bizarre, unfamiliar world."
Costume designers Diane Cole and Jan Avramov came up with the idea to have the cast go punk. Their main source of inspiration was a show about British punk fashion at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
"The English have an amazing tradition of outrageous street fashion, and most things in the show come from this scene," Cole says. "The punk scene wanted to have less, and to take apart the music, governmental ideas and clothes with a deconstructive style."
And merging that style with a Shakespearean work might actually make the Bard proud, at least in one sense.
"Basically, all of Shakespeare's plays were in modern dress," says Ross. "So, to that extent, we're really following the Shakespearean practice to create costumes that are not "old-timey.'"
The Comedy of Errors
The Dusty Loo Bon Vivant
Theater, 3955 Cragwood Drive
Aug. 10-27; Wednesday through Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays at 2 p.m., except Aug. 12; Sundays at 4 p.m.
Tickets: $22 for reserved seating; limited general admission is free. Visit uccstheatreworks.com or call 262-3232 for more.