When it comes to Shakespeare in Kern County, you couldn't ask for a better guide than Randy Messick, the founder of the Kern Shakespeare Festival. So when he tells you that you will have a good time, say, at the production of "The Comedy of Errors," opening Thursday at the Shafter Ford Theater, you'd do best to believe him.

"It's super-entertaining. They’ll have a blast. I know it."

It helps that Messick serves not only as director but performer as well in this collaboration with longtime friend and creative force Larry Starrh, who puts on the annual Shafter Colours Festival each spring. Starrh said earlier this year that this production would be part of the effort to extend the festival's reach further into the year, putting the spotlight on arts in the community.

Regarded as the Bard's best farce, "Comedy" swirls around a case of mistaken identity. Two sets of twins (played by Kevin Ganger and Chris Burzlaff and Matt Mizzell and Nolan Long, respectively) are separated at birth after a disastrous sea voyage. Growing up in different lands, with each pair consisting of a servant and master, the duo from Syracuse venture to Ephesus in search of their brothers. Before anyone can be reunited, family members and townfolk happen upon the newcomers and mistake them for their twins — and hilarity ensues.

Messick describes the play as "non-stop funny" and just a great show to "introduce Shakespeare into the mix" since it clocks in under 90 minutes (as opposed to a multi-hour "Hamlet").

Setting the show in the Wild West helped bring it to life, with a set designed by Starrh.

"You can envision a dirt street with the storefronts and horse trough — and that’s all you need."

"Comedy" also stars Cody Ganger, Karisma Normandin, Ryan Lee, Brent Starrh and Leslie Wilson.

Shows run Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with a 2 p.m. matinee Sunday at the theater, 1101 E. Lerdo Highway in Shafter. Tickets are $20, $10 for seniors and all students, available at the door.

Plein Air closing reception

With the weather being what it is, the plein air artists who flocked to Kern County last month are surely glad that their outdoor work is long done. Much of the work created by the 16 Kern County Plein Air Painting Festival artists during their week here is on display for one final showing Thursday night for the closing reception.

The collection features local scenes from Hart Park, Wind Wolves Preserve, Highway 223, the Kern County Museum, and Tejon Ranch, to which the artists were given special access. The reception will feature the festival's top works. The winners were: David Dibble, best in show for “9 AM, 20th & Eye”; Rita Pacheco, first place for “Patchwork of Green"; Dan Schultz, second place for “Road to Nowhere”; and Jim Wodark, third place for “Spring Runoff."

The reception will run from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Arts Council of Kern Access Center, 1330 Truxtun Ave.

Theatre in the Gallery

After the recent successful run of "The very Ecstasy of Love," the inaugural Theatre in the Garden production at the Bakersfield Museum of Art, director Jennifer Sampson is planning her next endeavor with the museum. This time it's for the second Theatre in Gallery (the first being "Eurydice" last August). Sampson has chosen "Eleemosynary" by Lee Blessing, a multigenerational tale of mothers and daughters, which will run Aug. 24 through 26. The director said she may also perform in the show, which will feature actress Jan Hefner.

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.

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