In the Sacred Fools Theater rendition of "The Comedy of Errors," director Joe Jordan turns Shakespeare's Ephesus into an island off the coast of Brazil.
Though ruled by a dictator with gun-toting guards, the islanders are celebrating the annual Carnival of Summer. Cue the Latin beat, the vivid colors, the gyrating dancers, a guy on stilts, the fire-eater, the ganja smoking, the black magic, the giant bird puppet that saunters through the streets. Jordan maintains the ambience throughout the show.
Not everything fits the tropical motif, however. Two of the three band members, off to one side, wear white crew-neck T-shirts under their tropical shirts--befitting, say, a U.S. college frat party. They also provide a stream of sound effects that sound inspired by old-fashioned vaudeville.
A servant and his master communicate by cell phone until they realize they're within a few steps of each other. As the two Dromios tussle on either side of a door, they whip out giant squirt guns and shoot water through the mail slot--then one of them aims at the audience. A bit of verbal sparring between one of the servants and his master adopts game show rhythms. One of the Antipholuses goes into a "Saturday Night Fever" routine. A voodoo healer performs an exorcism with a plastic chicken.
Sight gags--from whatever lineage--just keep coming, especially in the raucous second half. The comedy is as broad as possible.
Initially the yield of laughs per gag is a little light, but the show builds steam. The Dromios, Michael Lanahan and Eric J. Stein, never grow tiresome. Zach Hanks' Antipholus of Syracuse and Jessie Thompson's gangly Luciana manage a brief moment of actual sentiment, while Jon Epstein's Antipholus of Ephesus and Ashley West Leonard's Adriana maintain a harder comic edge.
"The Comedy of Errors," Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, L.A. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Ends July 28. $15. (310) 281-8337.