Santa Cruz isn’t just for surfers. Each summer, Shakespeare Santa Cruz makes it a premier destination for theatergoers as well. With three productions — Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors” and “Henry IV, Part I” and Alexander Dumas’ “The Three Musketeers” — up and running through Aug. 28, all’s well at the festival under artistic director Marco Barricelli, now celebrating its 30th season on the UC Santa Cruz campus.
“The Comedy of Errors,” on the indoor mainstage, is this year’s outstanding entry. Director Danny Scheie, who first staged Shakespeare’s earliest (and shortest) comedy for the festival in 1988, gets maximum mileage from this revival.
The plot, about two sets of twins separated by shipwreck, gets a rustic Americana setting with Southern drawls, dapper costumes and a weathered wood set of multiple doors and windows through which twin brothers (both played by the excellent Mike Ryan) and their twin servants (the amazing Brad DePlanche) move at speeds designed to make your head spin.
Scheie’s staging, which moves to the Montalvo Arts Center in September, is a comic tour de force. But it also gives the characters depth — something rarely achieved in what is widely considered a one-dimensional play.
Outdoors in the Festival Glen — a beautiful setting surrounded by towering redwoods — “Henry IV Part I” is just as gripping. Director Scott Wentworth gives the company a dramatic, bawdy, moving production of Shakespeare’s history play, which, among its other virtues, introduces the larger-than-life character of Falstaff.
A huge cast inhabits Wentworth’s production, which moves fluidly between scenes at the English court, the rebel camp and the tavern at Eastcheap, where Prince Hal (Erik Heger) and Falstaff (Richard Ziman) hold court with drunkards, whores and thieves.
The drama tightens and focuses as Hal, the future Henry V, comes into his own. Heger, Ziman and the ensemble bring the transformation to life in vibrant terms.
If “The Three Musketeers,” also in the Glen, doesn’t have quite the same impact, it still gets a lively workout in this adaptation by Linda Alper, Douglas Langworthy and Penny Metropulos (it premiered at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 1999). Director Art Manke balances the adventure and romance of the original as D’Artagnan (Leigh Nichols Miller) and his swashbuckling cohorts go in search of honor; seeing the “Henry” cast taking on Dumas’ characters is one of its chief pleasures.
All in all, a bravura season; it’s also the start of a three-year cycle that begins with “Henry IV, Part I.” SSC will stage “Henry IV, Part II” in 2012 and “Henry V” in 2013.
with “The Comedy of Errors,” “Henry IV, Part I” and “The Three Musketeers”
Where: UC Santa Cruz, 1156 High St., Santa Cruz
When: Tuesdays through Sundays; closes Aug. 28
Tickets: $15 to $50
Contact: (831) 459-2159, www.shakespearesantacruz.org