by Michael Bowen & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & A & lt;/span & nice comedy, with the characters making laughable mistakes, isn't that what we're all in the mood for, at least sometimes, during the summer vacations of our lives?

Sure, the lake, the amusement park and the double margarita all beckon. And theaters may not seem the likeliest of places to search for summer fun. But they're just as air-conditioned as the movie palaces are. (Well, at least as long as the HVAC holds out -- at some of our local theaters, a precarious prospect.) We're on the lookout, then, for some entertaining summertime comedies of errors.

The Comedy Of Errors & r & Let's start with the literal, Shakespearean Comedy of Errors -- the region's only al fresco option for theater-going this summer (at least east of Leavenworth). It's being produced on the University of Idaho campus by Idaho Repertory Theater (July 20-30) -- not inside the Hartung Theater, but on an outdoor stage and hillside just outside it -- a great place to watch summer Shakespeare.

The Comedy of Errors, for example, begins with an old man telling a tale of woe: Shipwrecked 18 years ago, he was separated from his wife and his twin sons and their twin servants. Each set of twins shares the same name. (Hey, it helps moves the plot along.) Naturally, the wives, girlfriends and mountebanks of Ephesus mistake the out-of-town twins (they're from Syracuse) for the hometown boys. It's just a door-slamming farce -- but it also takes time to meditate on the nature of identity: If nobody I know recognizes me, then who am I? And when the visiting twins take refuge from Ephesian lunatics in the local abbey, guess who the abbess turns out to be. The Comedy of Errors -- Shakespeare's earliest, briefest and screwballiest comedy -- races to a frenzied but family-cozy conclusion.

Even before the Shakespearean comedy, IRT will offer three indoor plays: I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change (a musical comedy about dating and marriage, June 22-July 16); Grace & amp; Glorie (about a cantankerous 90-year-old woman and her hospice worker, June 29-July 16); and Lend Me a Tenor (a door-slamming farce set in a 1930s opera company, July 6-30).

Pippin & r & This summer over at North Idaho College ("located much nearer a world-class resort than, say, Fresno City College"), Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre will offer A Chorus Line (see below) along with Peter Pan (July 1-15) and The King and I (Aug. 5-19).

But in the third slot (July 20-30) of the four-show season comes a musical less well known than any of those three shows: Pippin, the 1972 Stephen Schwartz/Bob Fosse fantasia on living the good life. Schwartz actually wrote it in college, but couldn't get it produced until after Godspell had attained success. For his part, Fosse -- in full '70s glitz mode, and just three years before the razzle-dazzle of Chicago -- directed and choreographed Pippin (and even co-wrote the book).

The story is set in 8th-century France the way King Lear is set in prehistoric Britain -- which is to say, it could be set anywhere, anytime (like, for example, here and now). Pippin's the son of Charlemagne, but a history of Gaul isn't the point here. The point, instead, is a Candide-like romp through various walks of life in a search for lasting fulfillment. Pippin tries being a soldier, then a lover, then a social activist. Not surprisingly, neither war nor romance nor politics can offer supreme bliss or eternal happiness. So Pippin settles in for a nice, long run of being married with kids. Problem is, Fosse had insinuated into the action a kind of good angel/bad angel character called the Leading Player; he's the one who forces Pippin to confront the tedium of marriage and tries to lure our hero into suicide. In end, despite the enticements of all the magicians and commedia dell'arte players that Fosse's imagination could summon, Pippin decides simply to settle down.

Along the way, the Leading Player sings "Magic To Do" and "Corner of the Sky," and Pippin's grandmother has a show-stopper called "No Time at All."

Pippin has made a lot of mistakes along the way, but at least he ends up happy. He stars, in other words, in a musical comedy of errors.

"The Tuna Project" & r & Out at SFCC, Michael Weaver's Actors Rep Theater starts its (third!) season so early that we need to include it in Summer Guide. For ARt's season opener (Aug. 24-Sept. 9), two comedies will run in repertory -- if, that is, having the same two actors in a pair of plays qualifies as repertory.

The actors, you've heard of: William Marlowe and Michael Weaver. Veterans of Interplayers, they've moved on now to SFCC and Actors Rep; more important, they've shared this sandwich in the past, having appeared in the Tuna plays before.

The plays have achieved some local renown, too, with huge crowds during previous productions; they'll package Greater Tuna and A Tuna Christmas as "The Tuna Project." Since they'll alternate the plays, in two nights you'll be able to see Marlowe and Weaver perform a couple dozen different roles each in two different comedies.

As the Greater Tuna Web site says, the two actors "with some split-second costume changes, [will] portray all 24 citizens of Texas' third-smallest town, where the Lions Club is too liberal and Patsy Cline never dies."

It's the names and characterizations in the Land of Tuna that are so delicious: Bertha Bumiller, stuck in a house with three impossible kids and "eight to 10" dogs. Chain-smoking, perpetually angry gun-store owner DiDi Snavely, who lures customers to her Peace on Earth sale by telling folks that they can't afford to ride around in a one-horse sleigh while unarmed.

Somebody redecorates a Nativity scene with boxer shorts -- probably a response to the annual Tuna Christmas Yard Display contest, which Vera Carp has won 14 years in a row. Then there's a group called the Smut Catchers, who are pretty upset about some Christmas carol lyrics. ("'round yon Virgin" has got to go.")

But reviewers often comment on how the two Tuna plays aren't simply farcical. The lady in the polyester pants suit and bouffant hairdo turns out to be not just a caricature but someone who's lonely and vulnerable. Sort of like many of us at the holidays. Sort of like many of us in the summer, too.

And if the Tuna plays don't qualify as comedies full of errors, then this article is itself riddled with mistakes. (At least it was fun.) See you this sweltering summer inside some nice, cold, air-conditioned theater.

DON'T MISS & r & "Step, kick, kick, leap, kick, touch...." Everybody's had a demanding boss (like Zach the director) and everybody has dreamed (like these dancers) of making it big. Which is why, after all the rejections they've faced, we're not only pulling for the wanna-bes of A CHORUS LINE in the final, glittery, show-off number -- we're pulling for ourselves. Michael Bennett's 1975 musical returns to Broadway in September, but CdA audiences will see it earlier (from June 10-24). CdA native Michael Wasileski will choreograph and direct; Spokane native Kasey R.T. Graham will conduct; both are veterans of national tours.

In "THE WACKY HUMOR OF DAVID IVES," a half-dozen actors perform zany one-acts like "Babel's in Arms" (two blue-collar workers in ancient Mesopotamia), "Time Flies" (two mayflies discover something about their lifespans), "Words, Words, Words" (three monkeys typing), "English Made Simple" (a couple meet at a party and decide not to get hung up on small talk -- so they get hung up on grammar) and the instant classic, "Sure Thing" (during a chance meeting in a caf & eacute;, the false starts and restarts of a beginning relationship -- each one signified by the ringing of a bell every time the man says something unacceptable or stupid). Performances on Thursdays-Fridays, June 29-Aug. 25, at CenterStage.

Watching Maria yodel with the kids about the Lonely Goatherd while watching THE SOUND OF MUSIC at the Leavenworth Ski Hill Amphitheater -- with pine-scented forests all around you and mountains looming in the distance -- why, it's like having Julie Andrews busting right through the front of your television set. I mean, you're watching all about a Bavarian village in the closest thing Eastern Washington has to a Bavarian village. The hills are alive at Leavenworth Summer Theater from July 7-Sept. 2.

The Civic's summertime "musical about sports and spring fever," GOAL CRAZY!, created and directed by Jean Hardie, will mix the conflicting worlds of ballet and rugby. Seems that the rugger boys from Millamallamoola U have been required to improve their footwork by enrolling in a dance class. Performances Aug. 10-18.

Louis Comfort Tiffany: Treasures from the Driehaus Collection @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Feb. 13
  • or

About The Author

Michael Bowen

Michael Bowen is a former senior writer for The Inlander and a respected local theater critic. He also covers literature, jazz and classical music, and art, among other things.