Shakespeare & Co., most dauntless of our denizens of drama, tackles "Scapino," slowing its whizbang to a lumber. While the audience in the Trapier Theater on the Washington Cathedral close accepted the effort with genial grace on Thursday night, this Moliere variation is well out of reach for inexperienced players.

The Young Vic's director Frank Dunlop and star Jim Dale adapted this from the Frenchman's "Scapin," pushing it into modern Naples with a slapdash of commedia dell'arte and a great deal of flashy style. Because Dale wearied after three years in the part on two continents. Washington never got to see it, though a TV version gave some of the flavor.

What this style needs is cold, absolute precision and a sense of inevitable effortlessness. The absurd yarn about a con man who preserves two marriages of which two fathers disapprove is merely the skeleton for physical scampering and verbal byplay. Closest in the vital style is Eric Zwemer, whose moves and falls, glances and esprit suggest the clockwork pace the company generally lacks. The program, presented as a menu card for a ristorante Italiano , is amusing and I'm sorry Edward Crow's well-intended production couldn't match its style.

Trapier performances as Tuesdays through Sundays and reservations may be made at 686-1733.