Monday, August 31, 2009

SF Shakes: Comedy of Errors

The Comedy of Errors
Free Shakespeare in the Park 2009
San Francisco Shakespeare Festival
The Presidio's Main Post, Parade Ground Lawn
Saturday, Aug 29 - 7:30 PM

Saturday night wasn't anywhere near as warm as the previous night, but a sizable audience of all ages showed up for the 1st night of the San Francisco run of SF Shakes's Comedy of Errors at the Presidio. The cast is constantly in motion, constantly talking, & their joy in the performance is infectious. Cassidy Brown played Antipholus of Syracuse with the comic stiffness of an Al Gore. I overheard an audience member refer politely to Anna Ishida's knife-wielding, woman-on-the-verge Adriana as "having anger mangement problems."

Even non-comic characters are given clownish spins. Daveed Diggs is hilarious as the cocktail-sipping Duke, a cross between Superfly & Disco Stu. His Dr. Pinch, bespectacled & handling a crucifix like a gun, is just as funny. Valerie Weak is simply absurd as a Jewish abbess & as a Wild West jalier wearing a bright yellow cowboy hat nearly as large as she is.

SF Shakes feels no need to be true to the letter of the text, but it's all perfectly within the spirit of the piece. In fact the show opens not with Shakespeare but with the Duke addressing us directly in contemporary speech. There is a running joke involving mispronunciations of "Epidamnum" that no doubt arose during rehearsals. The off-stage kitchen wench Luce appears on-stage as a man in drag. At one point in the evening a bundle of money being juggled was accidentally dropped off the stage, & the actor playing Antipholus simply announced, "I'll get it," & leapt down from the stage to retrieve it.

It did get cold, & near the end of the show a blast of wind rattled the crowd. However, the hardy audience just wrapped themselves in blankets & quaffed more wine & made it through happily.

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