Peggy Sue Dunigan

The Rep’s rapped Shakespeare

By - Mar 18th, 2011 04:00 am
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9222: Michael O’Brien, Justin Jain, Wayne T. Carr and Steve Pacek. Photos by Michael Brosilow.

How does Shakespeare mingle with hip-hop?  By producing “The Bomb.” The Bomb in hip-hop speak means “something very good.” This something very good appears in The Milwaukee Rep’s upcoming The Bomb-itty of Errors, the final Stackner Cabaret show of the season. It promises to be an ad-‘rap’-tation of the William Shakespeare’s 16th-century The Comedy of Errors and an energy driven, fun-filled, hard-rhyming evening.

Actor Wayne T. Carr calls the production (it opens Sunday, March 20, after previews Friday and Saturday) hip-hop opera. He relaxed between rehearsals to chat, over a Starbucks coffee, about returning to Milwaukee from New York.

Getting Started Carr said that Milwaukee has become dear to his heart after work at American Player’s Theatre, First Stage Children’s Theater, The Milwaukee Rep and Renaissance Theaterworks over the past several years. Recently, Carr performed Bomb-itty at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, where he found that people enjoyed the language even if they didn’t know hip-hop from hopscotch.

The rip-rapping Bomb-itty cast comprises a DJ and four men who play all the roles, including the female characters. Carr plays Antipholus of Syracuse, Hendelberg and the Abbess. The roles uphold the Shakespeare tradition he embraces in his own career, even through the ad’rap’ting and some rethinking of the story’s framework. While Carr encountered Shakespeare in his teens, on this afternoon he comments, “I love the fact that as a youngster Shakespeare seemed otherworldly or elitist.  Here the combination of rhyme, verse and language make it more approachable for a younger audience.”

Jordan Allen-Dutton, three co-writers, and composer Jeffrey Qaiyum started work on this Shakespeare collaboration in 1999. Since then, productions have run throughout the States and Europe. The Bomb-itty of Errors won the Jefferson Award, while garnering several other nominations at the national theater level. After knowing and working with this animated quintet of co-creators, Carr relates that, “These guys who wrote the play love Shakespeare and thoroughly enjoy the language.”

Choreographer Samuel Antonio Reyes added a dance dimension, driven by rap rhymes and rhythms, to Bomb-itty. The physicality of the dances opens the door to the bawdy humor and subject matter Shakespeare wrote into all his comedies. The production revisits Shakespeare’s initial intent by stressing these elements that more formal interpretations often might overlook.

The Rep-debut director is Megan Nicole O’Brien.  Rep artistic director Mark Clements saw O’Brien’s Bomb-itty five years ago, when she co-directed it at her own 11th Hour Theatre Company in Philadelphia. Also in their Rep debuts and also from Philadelphia: Justin Jain, Michael Philip O’Brien, Steve Pacek and Mark Valenzuela.

Before he leaves for the rehearsal, Carr mentions that he enjoys the city’s familiar theater community, which makes feel at home. The show itself fulfills his love of Shakespeare.” “Bomb-itty,” he says, “Opens your mind to a new genre of theater where you find the joy of language, the joy of Shakespeare and the joy of hip hop.”

The Milwaukee Repertory Theatre will preview the show at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and open officially at the Stackner Cabaret at 7 p.m. Sunday (March 20). It will run there through May 8. Tickets are $35 for the previews and for weekday and Sunday evening shows and for Saturday matinees. Tickets are $45 for Sunday matinees and Friday and Saturday evenings. Call the Milwaukee Rep box office, 414 224-9490, or visit the Rep’s website.


Categories: Theater

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