For its inaugural production, Francis Gercke and Jessica John's Backyard Renaissance theater company chose British playwright Jez Butterworth's Parlour Song. It's a bittersweet triangle tale involving an Englishman who blows things up for a living (Mike Sears), his sad, disillusioned spouse (John) and a highwired car-wash owner (Gercke). Each in his or her own way is facing the inevitability of middle age and beyond, and not with the so-called quiet desperation generally attributed to the English.
Ponderous though it can be, Parlour Song offers many laugh-aloud moments, most of them when Sears' pitifully paranoid character, Ned, is on stage, such as his feebly trying to get into shape or getting caught listening to a clinical-voiced sex advice tape. Lisa Berger directs this one-act play with a smart understanding of Butterworth's more existential messages that underlie the domestic turmoil, and with an appreciation for her cast's particular talents—Sears' physical comedy, Gercke's intense energy and John's sheer plaintiveness. For Backyard Renaissance, Parlour Song marks a propitious beginning.
Parlour Song runs through Sept. 6 at BLKBOX @ 6th & Penn in Hillcrest. 10- $24. backyardrenaissance.com
The thinking behind the Old Globe's Summer Shakespeare Festival staging of The Comedy of Errors must have been either: A.) Let's do Shakespeare for people who don't especially like Shakespeare; or, B.) This play is so silly and inconsequential we'll just use it as an excuse to do a “New Orleans in the '20s” show. Regardless, this production of the one-act (that's not a misprint) The Comedy of Errors, directed by Scott Ellis, tells the story of two sets of twins and all the ensuing confusion, but becomes a big, loud French Quarter party. Besides Alexander Dodge's stunning sets and Linda Cho's period costumes, there are beaucoup jazzy interludes performed by strutting musicians and cast sing-alongs of “Down by the Riverside,” “When the Saints Go Marching In” and “Tiger Rag.”
Halfway through this Comedy of Errors, everyone in the outdoor theater was letting the good times roll so brazenly you'd never know they were at a Shakespeare festival. The farcical fun aside, that's kind of a shame.
The Comedy of Errors runs through Sept. 20 at the Old Globe's Lowell Davies Festival Theatre. $29 and up. oldglobe.org
Moon Over Buffalo: Ken Ludwig's comedy about two aging theater actors who may get one more chance to perform on Broadway. Directed by Margo Essman, it opens Aug. 28 at the Patio Playhouse in Escondido. patioplayhouse.com
Amazons and Their Men: The West Coast premiere of Jordan Harrison's comically subversive play about German film auteur Leni Riefenstahl. Directed by Matt M. Morrow, it opens in previews Sept. 2 at the Diversionary Theatre in Hillcrest. diversionary.org