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.

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