'Comedy of Errors' goes way out West 

click to enlarge Jon Deline, left, and Patrick Russell ham it up wonderfully in Marin Shakespeare Company's "A Comedy of Errors." - COURTESY PHOTO
  • courtesy photo
  • Jon Deline, left, and Patrick Russell ham it up wonderfully in Marin Shakespeare Company's "A Comedy of Errors."

If Shakespeare had written "Blazing Saddles," it might have come out something like "A Comedy of Errors" at Marin Shakespeare Company in San Rafael.

You read that right. It's "A" and not "The" because managing and artistic directors Lesley and Robert Currier have taken one of the Bard's earliest, shortest and most oft-produced comedies and given it a twist, a twang and some country tunes by Leslie Harelib.

It's far from sacrilege. The feisty farce about two long-separated pairs of identical twins has inspired films (try "Big Business" with Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin), an opera, and the Rodgers and Hart musical "The Boys From Syracuse."

The western omelet served up here has moved the setting from ancient Greece to a Mel Brooks-ian West, replete with fart jokes, painful puns and country gals wailing about their men.

It would be easy to dismiss it as an indulgent whimsy were it not for some outstanding comedic acting keeping it grounded.

The leading perpetrators of merriment are double-duty-defying Patrick Russell (Antipholus) and Jon Deline (Dromio), who evoke the perfect Mutt and Jeff, Laurel and Hardy sensibility for the piece.

Russell ricochets nimbly from bouncy bravado to hapless confusion and wounded masculinity. A bright-eyed puppy dog in love and a boorish brute when vexed, he is agile, playful and thoroughly engaging.

Deline is a born clown, and not just because he spends the whole show sporting a red rubber nose. A superbly graceful big guy (think young John Goodman), his comedy timing and unerring sense of just how far to mug and milk are delicious fun.

Other memorable guy moments come from Kyle Stoner's Deputy, a whining-pipsqueak-of-the-law homage to Don Knotts; Gary Grossman as Doctor Pinch, in this presentation a Borscht Belt Indian; and the marvelously expressive Jack Powell as Aegeon.

On the distaff side, Amanda Salazar (Adriana) and Elena Wright (Luciana) play with gusto and carry the bulk of the musical duties.

As the virago wife confused by the on-off attentions of her husband, Salazar is a lusty, wild-eyed wench of combustible passions. Wright, on the other hand, doles out pragmatism in the face of her desire to respond to the increasingly inappropriate attentions of her erstwhile brother-in-law.

Operatic abbess Jessica Powell, saucy jeweler Abby Sammons, sassy courtesan Shirley Smallwood, burly sheriff Jeffrey Lloyd Heatherly and a game though choreographically challenged ensemble round out the company of players in this supremely silly and surprisingly satisfying romp.

A Comedy of Errors

In repertory with "Spanish Tragedy" and "All's Well That Ends Well"

Where: Forest Meadows Amphitheatre, 890 Belle Ave., San Rafael

When: 8 p.m. some Fridays-Saturdays, 4 p.m. some Sundays; closes Sept. 29

Tickets: $20 to $37.50

Contact: (415) 499-4488, www.marinshakespeare.org

About The Author

Robert Sokol

Robert Sokol

Bio:
Robert Sokol is the editor at BAYSTAGES, the creative director at VIA MEDIA, and a lifelong arts supporter. Diva wrangler, cinefiler, and occasional saloon singer, he has been touching showbiz all his life. (So far no restraining orders have been issued!)... more
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