Sunday, August 30, 2015


Shakespeare’s classic comedy tale of mistaken identity – long a staple arrow in the quiver of Playwrights ranging from Greeks and Romans to no less a savvy pilferer of stories and plots, than the Bard himself – is playfully, zanily, and brilliantly staged, in the Outdoor Lowell Davies Festival Theatre, by eight time-Tony Award nominee Scott Ellis, along with an inspired cast and ensemble.

The venerable Old Globe Theatre, in Balboa Park, is celebrating its 80 birthday. And what a celebration party they’ve been serving up to their many loyal patrons. The eclectic season of plays selected for the year-long 80th celebration by Artistic Director Barry Edelstein has been a series of winners for San Diego audiences and all true patrons of the arts.
(foreground, from top) Glenn Howerton as Antipholus of Ephesus/Antipholus of Syracuse and Rory O'Malley as Dromio of Ephesus/Dromio of Syracuse with (background) Nathan Whitmer in The Old Globe's 2015 Summer Shakespeare Festival production of The Comedy of Errors, directed by Scott Ellis, Aug. 16 - Sept. 20, 2015. Photo by Jim Cox.
Glenn Howerton as Antipholus of Ephesus/Antipholus of Syracuse and Rory O’Malley as Dromio of Ephesus/Dromio of Syracuse with (background) Nathan Whitmer   Photo by Jim Cox.

Book-ended with the traditional Old Globe Christmas production of ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ to “Murder for Two”, “The Twenty-Seventh Man”, ‘The White Snake” “Buyer & Cellar”, “Arms and the Man”. “Rich Girl”, “Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery” to the Outdoor Summer Shakespeare Festival featuring the plays: “Twelfth Night”, “Kiss Me, Kate” and “The Comedy of Errors”, in repertory, brings to a close another highly successful and entertaining season of quality theatre at the great Tony Award-winning Regional Theatre in Balboa Park.

“The Comedy of Errors” is a crafty selection, by Edelstein, to close out the ‘summer season’ at The Old Globe. Under Director Ellis’ creative staging, the masterful production, has been moved up in time from an Elizabethan setting to the jazz-age, sexy, wide-open, ‘laissez les bon temps rouler’ lifestyle of 1920’s New Orleans (NOLA).

The text, however, with its zany narrative and sharply executed shenanigans along with Shakespearean accented speeches, are still in place, but now there is an insouciance and a cultural overlay in this production that compliments the NOLA of then as well as today. The comic farce resonates in 2015 just as effectively as did the Abbott and Costello baseball routine of mistaken identity in “Who’s on First” did back in the 1940’s.
The cast of The Old Globe's 2015 Summer Shakespeare Festival production of The Comedy of Errors, directed by Scott Ellis, Aug. 16 - Sept. 20, 2015. Photo by Jim Cox.
The cast of The Old Globe’s 2015 Summer Shakespeare Festival production of The Comedy of Errors, directed by Scott Ellis, Aug. 16 – Sept. 20, 2015. Photo by Jim Cox.

It’s a given that when a story centers around two pairs of identical twins, (in this case, boys each a mirror image of the other separated at birth by their parents and sent to live and be raised in different cities), that the possibilities for comedy scenarios are endless, especially when they constantly keep missing one another only to finally meet at the end. It’s a credit to this wonderfully talented cast of actors and dancers that the hilarity of mistaken identity in one of Shakespeare’s greatest comedies is so entertainingly presented with style, wit, imagination, and high-octane energy.

Portraying the very confused sets of twins are gifted actors Glenn Howerton as Antipholus of Ephesus/Antipholus of Syracuse and Tony Award nominee Rory O’Malley as Dromio of Ephesus/Dromio of Syracuse. Megan Dodds as Adriana and Barrett Doss as Luciana score as the love interests of the twins. Strong support also comes from Austin Durant as Duke Solinus and as Doctor Pinch and from Garth Schilling as the Courtesan, each delivering show-stopper moments along with San Diego favorite Deborah Taylor as Emelia, and Patrick Kerr as Egeon the father of the twin boys and the person responsible for setting all of this entertaining silliness in motion.

The Old Globe Theatre has few equals when it comes to technical disciplines. Director Ellis masterfully orchestrates the gifts that Scenic Designer Alexander Dodge provides in recreating a New Orleans we all have seen and know.

The colorful costumes for the ‘ladies of the night’ and those playing the locals, by designer Linda Cho are picture-perfect in style and period authenticity. And thanks to a lighting design by Philip S. Rosenberg, we get to see and enjoy the impeccable timing and pacing taking place on-stage.

Ellis even manages to squeeze in a traveling group of street musicians at the proper moments which greatly enhances the on-stage action and the overall production. I was ready for a hearty, delicious-tasting, bowl of gumbo following the 90 minute, no-intermission show.

“The Comedy of Errors” production, now performing in the Lowell Davies Outdoor Festival Theatre is a splendid evening in the theatre that runs through September 20, 2015.

Monday, August 17, 2015


Although he winces when people refer to his comedy plays as “farces” there is no doubt that he is one of America’s finest practitioners of the genre.  Most famous for his Tony Award-winning plays “Lend Me a Tenor” and “Moon Over Buffalo,” prolific playwright Ken Ludwig once again scores with his latest inventive and zany comedy “Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery.”

Let it be known that when a playwright takes on the chore of adapting a story as famous as “The Hound of the Baskervilles” from the pen of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the creator of Sherlock Holmes, one of English literature’s most iconic detectives – Hercule Poirot created by Dame Agatha Christie, being the other – it’s a given that special care and handling has be observed.

Euan Morton as Sherlock Holmes - All cast photos by Jim Cox
The task of insuring fidelity to the original story, yet helm Ludwig’s adaptation, falls to director Josh Rhodes who is more than equal to the challenge. Rhodes has a firm creative grasp of his material and the inventive skills to stage a warp-speed mystery/comedy with an absolutely inspired cast of five talented actor/farceurs.

The Old Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White Stage is where the dastardly deeds take place and to quote the idiosyncratic Holmes, “Patience Watson, all will be revealed”! is the watchword for the evening’s hilarity.

The story is set near the turn of the 20th century on the moors of Devonshire, England, where the famed detective played by Euan Morton along with his trusted companion Dr. John Watson played by Usman Ally, have been commissioned to investigate the mysterious murder of Sir Charles Baskerville, one of a long line of Baskervilles that allegedly have died as a result of a long standing family curse.

To assist in the telling of the heavily plotted and well known tale, director Rhodes has the good fortune, in addition to Morton as Homes and Ally as Watson, of having three gifted actors: one woman (Liz Wisan) and two men (Blake Segal as Man One and Andrew Kolber as Man Two) play over 45 parts in all. The energy, character, costume, and voice changes; all performed in a series of on-stage moments requiring split-second precision and timing is thing of beauty to behold. It’s a visually a stunning accomplishment reminiscent of the play “The 39 Steps” which also takes place in England where four actors play almost 50 roles (It must be all that tea they drink in England that give their actors all that energy).

The enjoyment of this stellar ensemble cast and production, however, is in the details of their performances;  the many clever, comedic, and innovative directorial touches in this highly entertaining production are due to the personal vision brought by director Rhodes. It’s a slam-dunk winning production.

The technical credits at the Globe are always first rate, and this production is no exception. The creative team led by director Rhodes includes: Scenic Designer Wilson Chin who provides a most unique set and space for the actors to perform their magic. Who would have thought of having the actors work with on-stage miniatures as a way of telling the story as well as allowing the actors to become interactive with the audience?

Lighting Designer Austin R. Smith provides the right amount of mood-lighting for the mystery aspects and the proper full up comedy lighting which allows the audience to see the many costumes designed by Shirley Pierson required for quick changes and period authenticity. Bart Fasbender created the original music and sound design.

During the curtain call, the cast took the last on-stage call with the back-stage crew. It was a well-deserved thank you by the cast to stage manager Annette Ye and her crew for those who help make the on stage magic happen night after night. It was a very classy gesture.

“Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery” performs at the Sheryl and Harvey White Stage at The Old Globe and runs through August 30, 2015. Don’t miss it!