Theater Review: “The Bomb-itty of Errors” — Hip-hop Hilarity

By Sasha Ray

A refreshing and witty hip-hop spin on Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors,

The Bomb-itty of Errors by Jordan Allen-Dutton, Jason Catalano, Gregory J. Qaiyum, Jeffrey Qaiyum & Erik Weiner. Directed by Christopher V. Edwards. Staged by Actors’ Shakespeare Project at the Charlestown Working Theatre, Charlestown, through June 26.

(l to r) Henry Morehouse, Anderson Stinson III, Victoria Omoregie, and Malik Mitchell in the Actors’ Shakespeare Project’s The Bomb-Itty of Errors, Photo: Nile Scott Studios.

Shakespeare and rap music would seem to make “strange bedfellows,” to quote the Bard, but the Actors’ Shakespeare Project, led by director Chris V. Edwards, has expertly yoked these apparent cultural opposites together in the regional premiere of The Bomb-Itty of Errors. The script comes here with a number of accolades under its belt, including an Outer Critic’s Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play and Best Show at the 2021 HBO Comedy Festival.

In this contemporary revision of Shakespeare, measured beatbox rhythms replace iambic pentameter while the dialogue is rhymed and delivered in rap beats. The loop-de-loop intricacies of the original’s identical twins plot are ironed out in an audience-friendly way. The result is an exhilaratingly delicate balance, a combo of rap show and a theatrical play that breaks new ground in hip-hop theater.

As in The Comedy of errors, two sets of identical twin brothers are born, separated by name (and size) through adoption after their birth. One pair of identical twins are called Dromio, while the other set is named Antipholus. After being separated at the time of adoption, one pair of nomadic Dromio and Antipholus twins call Ephesus home while the other leads an affluent life in Syracuse. Neither pair knows about their identical and identically-named twin brother(s), until the Syracuse duo, given a sign to find their “missing link,” wanders into Ephesus. The quad, seeking each other unknowingly, end up doing so by happenstance, and not without manifold cases of mistaken identity.

Four actors play the protagonists as well as the numerous other supporting characters who accompany the twins on their respective journeys. The fourth wall is broken now and then, inviting the audience to become part of the quest to bring the brothers together. In keeping with the idea that the twins can use all the help they can get, an onstage DJ lurks in the lighting booth. It is DJ WhySham, aka Shamara Rhodes, and she is acknowledged several times throughout the show.

The Actors’ Shakespeare Project production is superb. Among the challenges: the cast members are called on to play several characters at once, and that means managing lightning-speed costume changes while at the same time keeping the beat. (Well, aside from Bobby the Postman, played by Victoria Omoregie, who gets so close every time (s)he’s given the opportunity to rhyme.) The performers pull this off with aplomb, fast-talking in rhythm and with the music while putting across a Shakespearean plot. The quad rhymes and beatboxes through their quest, their lines dripping with humor and sprinkled with sexual innuendos. Quick-stepping Malik Mitchell and charismatic Anderson Stinston III showcase their significantly dancing, rapping, and acting skills. Stintson stands out as Antipholus of Syracuse with his hilarious and seductive “Luciana,” a tribute to his love interest. A testament to his versatility: he plays an innocent rabbi who drops in on the action and, during the mad chase scene at show’s end, runs across the stage as a leprechaun!

Omoregie portrays both Antipholus of Ephesus and his wife Adriana and manages (hilariously) to play a hubby and spouse who are at war with each other. The performer also triumphs as the rhymeless mail carrier Bobby, who delivers a decorative chain to the wrong Antipholus.

Debuting with the Actors’ Shakespeare Project as Dromio of Syracuse, Malik Mitchell showcases his rapping skills, his quick feet, and his ability to slip in and out of different personas with quicksilver speed. Add to that his mastery of a Jamaican accent as Dr. Pinch and his amusingly giggly mannerisms as a flirtatious prostitute.

Henry Morehouse plays Dromio of Ephesus as well as Luciana, Adriana’s silly blonde sister. He also takes on the role of an emotional wreck of a policeman who becomes a comic highlight. Adding to the level of difficulty — several of his characters’ songs are beatboxed acapella. Morehouse is particularly adept with physical comedy. His “mishaps” are impeccably timed, such as when Luciana’s wig falls off when Antipholus of Syracuse dips the character during a dance number.

There is no reason why Shakespearean plays must always be delivered in the measured tones of tradition, though that approach will never go out of style. The truth is, a knockabout farce like Comedy of errors invites playful updating and mischievous innovation. The Bomb-Itty delivers a tasteful, funny, charming, colorful, and refreshing refurbishment of the original.

Hats off to you, ASP! It was the bomb(-itty)!

Sasha Ray is a Boston native and who is currently studying for her Master’s at Boston University’s College of Communication. She writes mostly about arts.

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