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STAGE BEAT

'Comedy Of Errors'

September 05, 1986|RAY LOYND

The speech and vocal beat are Shakespearean and the plot does chart the farcical mistaken identities of "The Comedy of Errors," Shakespeare's earliest comedy and--blessedly, in this case--his shortest play.

This updated version by the West Coast Ensemble at the Playbill Theater doesn't work because the production, conceptually, physically and geographically (Shakespeare's Syracuse becomes trendy Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles) is incomprehensible. Even if you're familiar with the plot going in, the experience is bewildering.

Co-directors Shelly Lipkin and Colin Cox picked the worst possible city to turn Shakespearean. Los Angeles is too hot/cool to serve Shakespeare in any form (except possibly "The Tempest"), particularly in a farce that includes a nunnery on boutique row. The church suggests a cut-out from a preschool primer; the eclectic set is a mishmash.

The 16 performers, who are favored with clear diction, barely endure, but some are fine. The actors playing Shakespeare's two sets of twins are credibly agitated in the case of David Pearson and Tim Ottman (the Antipholi), and remarkably vivid look-alikes in the hyped-up funk of Deborah Seidel's and Lisa Denke's Dromios.

The latter pair, wearing spiky Tina Turner wigs, are cute "Yentl" types. And watch the quiet, greasy, obese Juan the Cook (Andrew Barach) and the voluptuous goddess Lucinda (the towering, leggy Margaret McCarley).

Step right up. It's a side show.

Hey, it's L.A.

Performances at 1072 N. El Centro Ave., Hollywood, Friday through Sunday, 8 p.m., through Sept. 21, (213) 871-0152.

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