Error Free

'Comedy of Errors' delivers high-value fun on the cheap

The issue of high ticket prices, and their arguable effect on the erosion of audiences for live theater, is rarely discussed openly within the North Bay theater community.

When the average theater show costs $28, it’s no wonder audiences look for other entertainment options that deliver more bang for the buck. Well, for maximum theatrical bang, there is no better bargain right now than Curtain Theatre’s joyously lowbrow, energetically slapstick production of William Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors. Not only is it good, it’s free.

Yes, a hat is passed after the show, but this ludicrously over-the-top, energetic, crowd-pleasing and hilarious show still offers the best all-around value for anyone seeking a bit of afternoon entertainment.

Staged outdoors in Mill Valley’s redwood-shaded Old Mill Park, director Carl Jordan takes what is possibly Shakespeare’s crudest comedy and sets it in the 1920s, adding a live band and atmospheric tunes of the era, ingeniously mining the story for every possible pratfall, fart joke, rubber-chicken slap and unexpectedly crude gesture hibernating somewhere in the gleefully bawdy text. The cast—who should be awarded a prize for most miles logged in a single onstage performance—attack this opportunity for outrageousness with an energy that astounds as often as it delights, even if Shakespeare’s ingenious language occasionally gets a bit muddied in the process.

In the city of Ephesus, established as a colorfully dangerous place by Steve Coleman’s brilliant storybook set and Amanda Morando’s sexy jazz-era performance of Coolio’s “Gangster’s Paradise,” Antipholus of Syracuse (Adam Niemann) and his servant, Dromio (Heather Cherry), suddenly arrive, unaware that as children they were each separated from identical twins bearing their same names. The other Antipholus and Dromio (Skylar Collins and Nick Christenson) now live in Ephesus.

Confusion ensues as one set of twins is mistaken for the other, leading the resident Antipholus to accidentally alienate his wife (Melissa Claire) and think his sister-in-law (Heather Gordon) has fallen in love with her. Additional bits about gangsters, the twins’ father facing execution and a frustrated goldsmith (Alexis Christenson, her hilariously snorty laugh a true thing of beauty) bring value-added laughs to this first-rate example of how to give more while charging less.

Rating (out of 5): ★★★★½