A Comedy of Errors at CalShakes

Dave and I saw the first preview of A Comedy of Errors at California Shakespeare Theater last night. It’s a fun, lively, colorful production with a lot of clowning and slapstick. The standout performance for me was from Adrian Danzig, who according to his bio is not merely a professional clown but the artistic director of an entire clown theater company based in Chicago and how cool is that? He gets a real workout playing both Antipholuses, and he carries it off with flair, energy, and occasional bursts of gymnastics. Danny Scheie similarly plays both Dromios; a little of his shtick usually goes a long way for me, and there’s a double helping of it here, but this is the sort of silly farce where it fits in and works, and I enjoyed his performance.

Having each pair of identical twins played by one actor is a very appealing idea, at least until you get to the scenes where they have to appear together, and then it isn’t so much any more; the actors don’t really overcome the clumsiness of the scenes in which they are playing opposite themselves, but they do make the most of their double roles the rest of the time.

Seven actors play all the roles, and they make a lively ensemble. Most of their bios include the words clown and/or circus somewhere in their credits, it’s that kind of production. I thought Patty Gallagher was especially deft and funny switching back and forth between playing a courtesan and an abbess, but really they’re all great fun to watch.

Really, the only real drawback to the production is that, you know, it’s still A Comedy of Errors, which it seems to me nobody really needs to see more than once in a lifetime, and I think this is my third production, plus a couple of productions of The Boys from Syracuse along the way as well. I suppose if you’re going to call yourself a Shakespeare festival, you’re taking on the obligation to work your way through the whole book of plays sooner or later, no matter how slight some of them are, and they don’t get much slighter than this. But I can’t help wondering if there aren’t there some other amusing but flimsy Elizabethan farces that we could all agree to just pretend to attribute to Shakespeare, just for variety.

The Classical Style

Last night Dave and I went to Hertz Hall on Berkeley campus to hear The Classical Style, a very silly one-act opera based — if that’s the word for it — on Charles Rosen’s book about the music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. The tickets were a gift from old friends who saw it at the Ojai Music Festival last week, enjoyed it, and apparently figured that if anybody else would enjoy it, too, Dave and I would. They were right; Dave and I howled with delighted laughter through the whole thing.

It’s not an opera for everyone, that’s for sure. The piece is full of jokes and loopy references that take a certain knowledge of classical music to get. (If you like Anna Russell and P.D.Q. Bach, you’d probably enjoy this.) I don’t think you’d have to have actually read Rosen’s book, but it sure doesn’t hurt. Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven are themselves characters (stuck in heaven playing Scrabble for all eternity), as is Charles Rosen himself; there are also characters named Dominant, Tonic, and Subdominant (who go into a bar), as well as a mysterious, wandering stranger who wears a trench coat and eyepatch and who turns out to be The Tristan Chord. Characters from Don Giovanni wander in and out of the action as well, as does a nerdy young musicologist whose analysis of Giovanni has all too antierotic an effect on the Don himself. And many other characters as well, all played by a cast of eight who are kept busy doubling parts all over the place.

There is also a hilarious portrayal of an academic symposium on the sonata form, constructed as a great big movement in you-know-what.

The whole thing is an extended prank, but the invention and wit never let up.

To fill out the evening, the opera is preceded by a really splendid performance of Haydn’s “Rider” string quartet. Totally enjoyable evening.

One more performance tonight. There were tickets on Goldstar yesterday.

Mahler’s Markings

This is a hoot. It begins:

Several weeks ago, we sent you a list of translations of the German markings in the Mahler [Symphony #1]. We now realize that this list contained many serious errors. These sheets contain the correct versions. So we don’t waste valuable rehearsal time on this, copy these corrections into your part immediately.
Langsam – Slowly
Schleppend – Slowly
Dampfer auf – Slowly
Mit Dampfer – Slowly
Allmahlich in das Hauptzeitmass ubergehen – Do not look at the conductor

There’s more. Funny stuff.

Games Copy Editors Play: Find the Antecedant

From the back of a package of raisins:

For generations, Sun-Maid has been America’s favorite raisin. That’s because we are committed to bringing you the best that nature has to offer. They’re 100% natural.

What plural noun does they refer back to, exactly?

Fortunately, in the very next line there are not one but two clues:

Just grapes and sunshine is all we put in them.

One clue is the ingredient list; the other is the choice of verb, which nobody involved in the writing, editing, or approval of this copy had a problem with.