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CalShakes does “The Comedy of Errors”: Shakespeare’s play doesn’t get better than this

Even geniuses write dud plays — “The Comedy of Errors” is Shakespeare’s — but you’d be hard-pressed to find a better production of it than the current one at the California Shakespeare Theater in Orinda. As the flimsy but funny story of mistaken identities, thanks to two sets of identical twins, “Errors” is a precursor to Shakespeare’s later — and better — play, “Twelfth Night,” which CalShakes staged wonderfully in the winter. Starting with last year’s “Lady Windermere’s Fan,” probably Wilde’s weakest play, CalShakes has been making it a habit to stage early, lesser works by otherwise excellent playwrights. Don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of clever couplets and great, extended jokes in “Errors” — including a long-form one about a rather massive and spherical love interest for Dromio — but the characters are largely sketches, forgotten as quickly as the laughter they brought on stage.

Cannes closes with “The Salt of the Earth” and “Maps to the Stars”

After nine blissful days in the French Riviera and about 24 films, I finished up my Cannes Film Festival experience exhausted and ready to come back to California. The festival wrapped last weekend, with an awards ceremony doling out prizes for the best films, performances, directing and screenwriting. Despite its relatively small selection of films— the festival plays host to about 60 films throughout all of its sections, compared to the 300+ films at the Toronto International Film Festival— there was still a wide variety of films and styles from around the world, although few that I fell truly, madly, deeply in love with. Although the ones I liked best didn’t win the top awards, which rarely seem to go to the best films anyway (“Fahrenheit 9/11” once won the Palme d’Or, after all), none of them went home completely empty-handed. Here’s a look at some of the best films and performances I saw at the festival.

Naomi Kawase’s “Still the Water” is forced poetry

Last week at the press conference, the President of the Jury for the Official Competition, Jane Campion— the only woman to have won the Palme d’Or, the festival’s most prestigious prize— made comments about how the film industry is very much still a boy’s club. In fact, last year’s competition featured no female directors and this year’s features only two, so it’s no surprise that there’s been much hubbub about how Naomi Kawase’s “Still the Water” could be a frontrunner for the Palme. It certainly is the sort of film that tends to get rewarded at Cannes. It feels to me like it’s trying almost too hard at times— it is pointedly aimed at being poetic in addition to tenderly made and beautifully shot. Critiques aside, its success would mean another landmark win for a woman.

“Napoli!”- A tale of war and moral sacrifice

As much fun as the first act of “Napoli!” is, it’s somewhat surprising that Eduardo de Filippo’s WWII tale about the moral sacrifices necessary for survival in times of war has been revived today at the American Conservatory Theatre. It’s not that the “every-man-for-himself” mentality the characters start to espouse is outdated, but the preachy and patriarchal way in which the play makes its points, by having the father be the moral center who must correct the wrongs of his ambitious but short-sighted wife, is distasteful to modern audiences.