This is not the first time a director has chosen to play Shakespeare's "Comedy of Errors" in commedia dell'arte mode. And it won't be the last.
And though some of the performances in this Cal State Long Beach production aren't always up to director Steve McCue's giddy, gag-filled staging, it's mostly very funny. This despite tossing poetry out the window and making up for it with vocal sound effects by the actors in fights and physical shtick--"Take that, slash, slash, phhhst, pow."
As Liz Hubner's amusing costume designs, which veer from High Renaissance to Emerald City to Dr. Seuss, are frequently their own jokes, McCue's decision to stage a hilariously frantic sword fight with wooden burlesque slapsticks is a gem.
Herb Camburn's scenic design--part Hans Christian Andersen, part 17th-Century operetta, part Looney Tunes--can best be described by noting a sign on one wall: "Ephesus Agora Mall."
The large cast plays into McCue's humor with abandon.
Standouts are the two Antipholuses--one from Syracuse, the other from Ephesus--Bryce Cahn and Matthew Gourley, respectively. As twins separated years ago and warily finding each other in a chance meeting in Ephesus, they are eccentric, quirky and might be out of a silent film comedy, like the Dromios, their servants and also twins.
The Dromios (Joan Maurer and David Brown) careen like Keystone Cops, and though Maurer doesn't have the athletic abandon that fires Brown's performance, they always get their laughs.
Ryan Lee's effete, campy Restoration goldsmith and Maria Gomis' wicked witch (Dr. Pinch a Schoolmaster)are very good.
Also good are Sarah Paige Anderson as Adriana, Erika Michelle Laidermitt as her sister Luciana and Stephanie Marie Valsamides as her maid. They all give notable tone to their scenes, with Laidermitt shining in her out-of-hand realism and Valsamides getting more than her share of laughs by her rapt attention to the sisters, although she often overdoes it.
* "Comedy of Errors," University Theatre, Cal State Long Beach, East 7th Street and West Campus Road. Today, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. Ends Saturday . $10. (310) 985-7000. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.
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Bryce Cahn: Antipholus of Syracuse
Matthew Gourley: Antipholus of Ephesus
Joan Maurer: Dromio of Syracuse
David Brown: Dromio of Ephesus
Sarah Paige Anderson: Adriana, wife of Antipholus of Ephesus
Erika Michelle Laidermitt: Luciana, her sister
Stephanie Marie Valsamides: Luce, her maid
Ryan Lee: Angelo, a Goldsmith
Maria Gomis: Dr. Pinch a Schoolmaster
A Cal State Long Beach Department of Theatre Arts production of Shakespeare's comedy. Directed by Steve McCue. Scenic design: Bernard J. Skalka. Costumes: Liz Hubner. Make-up: Beth Pieschel. Hair/wigs: Liisa Fenech. Sound: Mark Abel. Verse coach: Richard Perloff. Movement/combat consultant: Holly Harbinger.