Shakespeare's plots suck. example? Try this one for Comedy of Errors: Aegeon of Syracuse, sentenced to death for some reason, has traveled to the city of Ephesus to find his long-lost son, Antipholus. That established, enter Antipholus (of Syracuse) and his servant Dromio (of Syracuse). Enter as well Antipholus (of Ephesus) and Dromio (of Ephesus). Through some measure of coincidence, or some kind of psychic bond, or just some really bad twist of a shitty plotter's pen, the two sets of brothers, raised in separate lands, have grown up with exactly the same mannerisms and—most important—the same taste in clothes. The entire play consists of Epheseans confusing the brothers Antipholus for each other until, out of nowhere, Aegeon is reprieved and all live happily ever after.
The best thing that can be said about this Cal State Fullerton production is that it manages to obscure some of these problems, but only by adding a few new ones. Director Dan Kern seems to have envisioned Humphrey Bogart as Antipholus (both), Jerry Lewis as Dromio (both), and the city of Ephesus as Casablanca.
One of the townsfolk even talks like Peter Lorre. Admittedly, the set and costumes are absolutely beautiful, but the Nazi SS officer aimlessly wandering around is damned distracting. There is a lot of slapstick (emphasize SLAP), none of which is nearly as interesting as watching the townspeople in the background hit drums, turn ratchets, blow slide whistles and in general try not to be obvious about supplying sound effects. Some characters are played so straight and others so broadly comic that at times it feels almost as if there are two different plays going on. Thankfully, it's a short evening, with each act clocking in at 45 minutes. But in this case the cuts only serve to underscore the script's inherent flaws. The biggest question raised by the whole production still has to be, "What's up with the Nazi?"
Comedy of Errors at Cal State Fullerton's Little Theatre, 800 N. State College Blvd., Fullerton, (714) 278-3371. Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m. $6-$8.