The veteran comic actor – a favorite at Cal Shakes and theaters around the Bay – plays not one but both of the servant Dromios in Shakespeare’s fizzy comedy. Agile, energetic, and relentlessly funny, he could probably do the entire play as a one-man show.
“Comedy of Errors,” which many believe is Shakespeare’s earliest play, is often considered something of a throwaway – lots of fun, but without much depth.
Directed by Aaron Posner, the production that opened Saturday at the company’s beautiful open-air Bruns Amphitheater keeps the laughs coming at regular intervals. Quick and vibrant, loaded with sight gags, double takes and rim shots, it’s everything audiences have come to expect from this tale of two sets of twins, separated at birth and reunited by chance years later.
But Posner and cast also bring out the play’s humanity. Too many productions of “Comedy of Errors” get mean to get laughs. This one has a big warm heart.
Posner’s staging is an endearing mash-up of styles, with klezmer numbers, jazzy torch songs, red-hot tangos and hilarious chase scenes punctuating the text. Nina Ball’s colorful arched set and Beaver Bauer’s whimsical costumes run the gamut from Byzantine to British dance hall. David Cuthbert’s cheerful lighting and Andre Pluess’ crisp sound designs contribute mightily.
Adrian Danzig is Antipholus of Syracuse and Antipholus of Ephesus, twin brothers set adrift as infants in a shipwreck years before (Ron Campbell’s august Egeon lays out the back story in the play’s first scene.) Scheie’s twin Dromios are their beleaguered servants. Both actors are up to the task, switching between their respective parts with just the change of a hat.
There’s doubling throughout the cast – Campbell returns as the merchant Angelo and a goofy Doctor Pinch. Liam Vincent scores as a comically self-absorbed Duke and an expansive Balthazar. Patty Gallagher doubles as a saucy courtesan and a wise abbess. Nemuna Ceesay is a fiercely articulate Adriana, and Tristan Cunningham, who turns an unexpected courtship into that dazzling tango, is a peppy Luciana.
Still, Scheie is the center of this “Comedy.” With his compact frame, well-modulated voice and pinpoint timing, he lights up every scene. His performance should come with a warning: See it once, and you may find yourself with a burning desire to see it again.
The Comedy of Errors
Presented by California Shakespeare Theater
Where: Bruns Amphitheater, 100 California Shakespeare Theater Way, Orinda
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays; closes July 20
Tickets: $20 to $72
Contact: (510) 548-9666, www.calshakes.org