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is a reminder that even the father of our modern mother tongue had to learn while he earned. So it is with director Ron West and his Open Fist ensemble’s creaky, modern-dress version of Shakespeare’s mistaken-identity protofarce. West moves the action from ancient times to “the beach community of Ephesus, circa 1964,” a bare-bones setting consisting of little more than grips dressed as beach cops on bicycles, which is more of a non sequitur sight gag than fully realized production concept. Certainly, it’s no help to West’s cast members, who must resort to desperate mugging rather than a thorough mastering of their text. Not that the challenge isn’t considerable. A notorious rewrite of Plautus’ Menaechmi, the play is an Elizabethan vaudeville, full of extended punning and slapstick but without the signature sophistication or psychological subtlety of the later Shakespeare canon. The show’s moment of true ingenuity comes with Aegeon’s (William B. Jackson) clumsy opening exposition, which West wittily stages as shadow-puppet flashbacks. Mathew Brenher as Antipholus and Claire Mills as Dromio acquit themselves to best effect as the Syracusean master and slave who unwittingly cause chaos in the lives of their identical twins, the Ephesians Antipholus (Dylan Fergus) and Dromio (Jordana Berliner).

Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Starts: July 12. Continues through Aug. 30, 2008

LA Weekly