Through December 9, 2007
Reviewed by Chris Gibson
Some people would rather see Shakespeare performed in traditional fashion, but I personally prefer an inspired re-imagining. After all, the bard himself was well known for his prowess at remaking the work of others.
The Rep's Off Ramp series brings the "ad-rap-tation" of The Comedy of Errors,
here called The Bomb-itty of Errors
to the stage of the Grandel Theatre. It's a raucous and beat-laden version that actually retains a great deal of the original play.
For the uninitiated, Shakespeare's plot concerns pairs of identical twins separated at birth. One set lives in Ephesus, while the other grows up in Syracuse. Chance brings the pair together, but not before a series of cases of mistaken identity threatens the sanity of all involved. I've always thought that the film, Start the Revolution Without Me,
was a pretty good take on the idea.
Shakespeare's original work is one of his more rhyming plays, and this works to distinct advantage with the concept created by Jordan Allen-Dutton, Jason Catalano, Gregory Qaiyum and Erik Weiner, with music by Jeffrey Qaiyum. The text, with much tweaking, is set to a variety of hip-hop grooves that create a nice "old school" feel to the proceedings.
Jake Mosser and Jason Veasey are twins, both named Antipholus (not very imaginative work there by Shakespeare, but useful nonetheless to the plot) and Jason Babinksy and Omar Evans are twins, both named Dromio. Additionally, each actor takes on the various male and female characters that populate the original work. All four possess the skills necessary to carry on their free flowing raps without losing the beat or the meaning of the words. DJ Spae, aka Jordan Connors, expertly provides the scratches and beats while perched just above the action.
Mosser is appealing as Antipholus of Syracuse, and he has a blast playing the crazy jewish goldsmith Angelo, here renamed MC Hindenburg. He's partnered with Evans who does great work as Dromio, and also gives Desi, a courtesan in the original, a sassy streetwise attitude. Evans excels later as Pinch, here reworked as a dub-singing Jamaican.
Veasey is solid as Antipholus of Ephesus and as his own wife, Adriana. His work in drag and as an ineptly rapping delivery boy is a hoot. Jason Babinsky, however, absolutely steals the show with his portrayal of Adriana's dimwitted sister, Luciana. It's a true comic gem of a performance that must be seen to be believed. Babinsky also impresses as a sexually confused policeman.
Nick Corley's direction is loose but fun. The action and raps fly by fast and furious, so you've got to pay attention or you just might miss a great line or rhyme. Luke Hegel-Cantarella's urbanized scenic design is eye catching with copious amounts of in-joke graffiti filling the walls. Jeffrey Nellis' lighting also adds a colorful touch.
This is a terrific show that's well worth seeing. If you're a person who can't stand any kind of rap, then you probably won't get it, regardless of your affection for Shakespeare. But, I loved it, and the vast majority of the audience was equally enthusiastic.
The Bomb-itty of Errors
continues through December 9, 2007 at the Grandel Theatre. Call 314-968-4925 for ticket information, or go online to www.repstl.org