reported erosion of the audience for live theater.

But it’s an issue the community thinks, and worries about, nonetheless.

It takes money to put on a show.

But it’s not unreasonable to expect that the more you pay, the better a show you get.
A fully professional, Equity theater such as Marin Theater Company can charge what they do because the quality of their productions tends to be consistently excellent.

Training programs like those at SRJC, Summer Repertory theater, College of Marin and SSU continue to have solid audience followings, despite uneven and understandably student-level work, because they rarely charge more than fifteen dollars a ticket.

But when the average North Bay community theater show costs 28 or 29 dollars—and almost always requires the audience to overlook the acceptability of at least a few eager-but-not-always-stellar actors, singers and musicians—the cost, when weighed against the quality, invariably works to drive down overall audience attendance, sending those potential patrons to other entertainment options, ones that deliver more dependable bang for the buck.

Well, for maximum theatrical bang, there is no better bargain for your buck right now than Curtain Theater’s joyously lowbrow, energetically slapstick production of William Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors, running through September 11 in Mill Valley.

Not only is the show good. It’s free.

Yes, a hat is passed after the show, but given that the average per-patron donation for pass-the-basket shows is ten-fifteen dollars, this ludicrously over-the-top, highly energetic, crowd-pleasingly hilarious show easily offers the best all around bang-for-buck value to anyone seeking a bit of cleverly-wrought afternoon entertainment.

Staged outdoors in the pleasantly redwood-shaded Old Mill Park, director Carl Jordan takes what is possibly Shakespeare’s crudest comedy, sets it in the 1920s, and adds a live band playing atmospheric tunes of the era, plus a few modern songs adapted to fit the style. Ingeniously mining the story for every possible pratfall, fart joke, rubber-chicken slap, and unexpectedly crude-gesture hibernating somewhere in the Bard’s gleefully bawdy text, Jordan’s cast—who should all be awarded prizes for most miles logged in a single onstage performance—attack this opportunity for outrageousness with an enthusiasm that astounds as often as it delights, even if Shakespeare’s ingenious language occasionally gets a bit muddied in the process.

In the city of Ephesus—established as a colorfully dangerous place by Steve Coleman’s brilliant storybook set and Amanda Morando’s sexy performance of Coolio’s ‘Gangster’s Paradise’’—Antipholus of Syracuse (Adam Niemann) and his faithful servant Dromio (Heather Cherry) suddenly arrive, unaware that as children they were each separated from identical twins bearing their same names. The other Antipholus and Dromio (Skylar Collins and Nick Christenson) now live in Ephesus.

Confusion quickly ensues as one set of twins is mistaken for the other, leading the resident Antipholus to accidentally alienate his wife (Melissa Claire) and make his sister-in-law (Heather Gordon) think he has fallen in love with her. Additional bits about gangsters, the twins’ father facing execution at sunset, and a frustrated goldsmith (Alexis Christenson, her hilariously snorty laugh a true thing of beauty) all bring value-added laughs to this first-rate example of how to give more while charging less.

‘Comedy of Errors runs Saturdays, Sundays and Labor Day, through Sept. 11, at Old Mill Park Amphitheater in Mill Valley. All shows are at 2:00 p.m. and are Free. Further info can be found at curtaintheatre.org

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