Comedy Of Errors with Cowbell

(from left) Glenn Howerton stars as Antipholus of Ephesus/Antipholus of Syracuse and Rory O'Malley as Dromio of Ephesus/Dromio of Syracuse 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 stars as Antipholus of Ephesus/Syracuse and Rory O’Malley as Dromio of Ephesus/Syracuse 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.

Jazz lovers, comedy lovers and fun lovers unite at the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre for Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors. Expectations are high for The Old Globe production, directed by Tony nominated Scott Ellis.

Usually the audience has to be so quiet listening to every word of a Shakespearean play, but Director Scott Ellis brings the fun. This show allows the audience to be more relaxed. The 1920s New Orleans atmosphere sets the tone from the stage, to the music, to the costume design. This is Ellis’ Shakespearean debut, but he has directed musicals, comedy, drama, classics and new plays. He had three Tony Award-nominated productions in 2015 for Direction of You Can’t Take It with You, along with On the Twentieth Century and The Elephant Man. Ellis’ name also might be recognized as executive producer for the television show “Modern Family.” He chose two named actors, Glenn Howerton, from FXX comedy, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and Rory O’Malley in the original company of The Book of Mormon.

This is a very physical play for the actors. O’Malley as Dromio sweats as he runs back and forth appeasing Howerton as Antipholus and Megan Dodds as Adriana, the duped wife. Dodds is expressive in her body language as she loses her patience in the situation. But, of course, there has to be mistaken identities—it’s a Shakespearean comedy. There are two Dromios and two Antipholus’, which the squirmy, Syracusan merchant Egeon (Patrick Kerr) explains their story with his handy dandy puppets, he happens to have in his suitcase. (Egeon is shipwrecked and has lost his wife and twin boys at sea.) One of the simpler moments is one of the funniest. Howerton walks on stage with a baguette in hand.

Scenic Design by Alexander Dodge in The Comedy of Errors. Photo by M.C.
Scenic Design by Alexander Dodge in The Comedy of Errors. Photo by M.C.

Bourbon Street arises from the stage or maybe it’s a miniature Disneyland New Orleans Square. Scenic designer, Alexander Dodge, colors the stage with two-story French Quarter buildings in pastels in soft lighting by Philip S. Rosenberg. In the middle, on a dais, a room turns revealing Adriana with her sister, Luciana in the dining room.

Costume Designer, Linda Cho, designed last year’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona, which had bright period costumes. I will never get the image of the cod piece out of my head. Colorful characters abound in The Comedy of Errors as a palette for Cho. Many in the ensemble are dressed as street people in 1920s New Orleans. With expressive eyes, Lindsay Brill lurks in her dress suit and hat, holding a fake dog. Another female ensemble member is dressed more or less as a gypsy and dreadlocks. Many of the men are in crisp, beige suits topped with hats.

A trumpet player sets the mood as he lingers through the street. Music director, Derek Cannon, incorporates a saxophone, trombone, clarinet, bass drum and various percussive instruments that include a cowbell for a seemingly impromptu Mardi Gras. Barrett Doss has a huge gospel voice. She pretty much brings church singing one word. I think it was Amen. I don’t recall, but I was like, “Whhaaaaat?” I want to hear the choir she’s singing in. And there’s more, Garth Schilling as the Courtesan is no stranger to being a drag queen. He is known as Miss Vodka Stinger, based in New York City. From the makeup to the belly to the singing he leaves it all on the stage and he is funny. As Schilling curves his, or excuse me, her jeweled hands down to her nether regions, she sings about needing a little steam down there. The eight year old in front of me whips her head toward her dad with her mouth open. It is a very cute father daughter moment, taking his daughter to see Shakespeare. Dad explained the show here and there.

There are too many “moments” to mention, but many of them will make you want to sing, laugh and cry-laugh in The Old Globe’s production of The Comedy of Errors.

The Old Globe, 1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego, CA 92101. Phone (619) 234-5623

Pursuit of Happiness

Ilya Serov performs at Festival of Arts 2015.
Ilya Serov performs at Festival of Arts 2015.

Sawdust Art Festival

Before the annual show of Pageant of the Masters, I have to stop at the Sawdust Art and Craft Festival. Sawdust to me feels like home not far from where I grew up. It’s particularly beautiful at sunset when the soft lighting of the art in the teeny booths shines on the enveloping eucalyptus trees. The smell of bleached out wood chips and trees growing out of some of the booths make me feel like a hobbit.

There are crafters to artists, who sell affordable art, from practical to whimsical. If you need a head shot for your social media, why not get it done by Mary Hurlbut who uses lightening to enhance the natural beauty of you. Or perhaps, you’ll like Annette Doreng-Stearns jewelry with a steampunk flair using metals and gems. After meandering around the windy rows listen to live coffee shop style music while eating at Evan’s Bistro. The teriyaki salmon, chicken or tofu over brown rice with jalapeños tastes homemade and is organic for $13.

Festival of Arts

After a belly full, cruise to Festival of Arts toward the ocean and cross the street. Wander through fine art while you wait for the Pageant of the Masters show. Even the local county schools’ student art is impressive. In the professionals area, I find myself starring at Rob Gage’s photographs of a dancer surrounded by mannequins splashed with paint. Inspiration came from a behind the scenes tour last year of Pageant of the Masters. A completely different medium caught my eye—Mia Moore’s mix media of ancient Asian papers in a contemporary format. Her wall hangings of collage pieces of paper have an origami feel. Many of the ancient papers are layered on small squares of canvas creating texture. If peace can be captured, it’s in Mia Moore’s art.

Pageant of the Masters

This year’s Pageant of the Masters theme The Pursuit of Happiness intrigued me. And, it did not disappoint. Because of the American history, kids and horse I would highly suggest taking school age children. Oh yeah and there’s confetti and an air dancer on top of the stage. You know, those orange, flopping, inflatable, dancing characters to get a store attention. It’s not art, but it will keep the kids attention. Also many hidden levels where used. Just like the Festival of Arts there is a multi-cultural theme in the POM show this year. Because we all should be given the freedom to pursue happiness.

Snap the Whip by Winslow Homer, Oil, 1872
Snap the Whip by Winslow Homer, Oil, 1872

The production begins with oil on canvas paintings by Winslow Homer inspired by school children. Children run in front of the stage and play ball, making their way into Snap The Whip, which is a game.

Appeal to the Great Spirit by Cyrus Dallin, Bronze, 1909
Appeal to the Great Spirit by Cyrus Dallin, Bronze, 1909

One of my favorite segments, Great Spirits, is the Native American art that had a surprise. Stage right, above the small stage, Appeal to the Great Spirit by Cyrus Dallin, stands in the shrubs of a hill. Then even higher a spotlight shines on two more Native Americans on faux horses which is not in the program. There may be a hidden building stage right. All this time I thought that was foliage covering a steep hill.

George Washington by Thomas Ball, Bronze, 1864
George Washington by Thomas Ball, Bronze, 1864

The Life, Liberty and … segment includes two paintings with George Washington then Thomas Ball’s George Washington Statue in bronze off the stage. The statue stands stage left on a dais, close enough to see the volunteer (cast member) make the slightest move, which he didn’t. With the narration this is a moving moment, exemplifying our freedom and those who helped mold America. A George Washington impersonator rides on a real white horse, galloping in front of the stage. This is the closest I’ll ever get to George Washington. The narrator says, “You have the right to pursue happiness–” Washington with his hat in the air gallops off as the narrator continued, “–but it’s up to you to catch it.” Red, white and blue confetti shoots out from the top of the stage.

The Moon at the Vacation House by Chikanobu, Woodblock print, 1891
The Moon at the Vacation House by Chikanobu, Woodblock print, 1891

In the Setsugetsuka segment, a trio of woodblock prints on paper by Japanese Master Yoshu Chikanobu come to life with a moon lantern high in the sky, a dance as performed in Kabuki theatre and haiku poetry. The Moon at a Vacation House celebrates “moon viewing,” one of the most admired seasonal events in Japan.

Every year, I am amazed at how art is brought to life in Pageant of the Masters. Real people are painted and stand still for one minute or longer, through live music by a small orchestra and beautifully written narration. All the elements come together forming a bigger than life-size piece of art, you would normally have to travel all over the world to see.

Buy a ticket to The Pursuit of Happiness for a trip around the world!

There is a $7 pay lot on Laguna Canyon Road where you can take the trolley for free.

Sawdust Art Festival, 935 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, CA 92651.

Pageant of the Masters, 650 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna, CA 92651. Phone #1.800.487.3378.

Festival of Arts is $4-$10, but free with a POM ticket. POM starts at $15. The best deal is Mother’s Day weekend if you sign up to be on the POM email list. I don’t recall how I signed up for the email.

Passport to the Arts season pass. For $23 you can have unlimited admission to Festival of Arts, Sawdust Art Festival and Art-A-Fair all walking distance from each other plus one-time Free parking other discounts.