Peggy Sue Dunigan

Shakespeare’s da bomb at The Rep

By - Mar 22nd, 2011 02:40 pm
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Justin Jain, Michael Philip O’Brien, Steve Pacek and Wayne T. Carr. Photos by Michael Brosilow.

The Milwaukee Rep’s Stackner Cabaret exploded with energy during two hours of hilarious Shakespearean madness on Sunday night.  The opening performance of its season-ending The Bomb-itty of Errors filled the stage with broad physical humor, candy-colored costumes, strobe lights and riotous entertainment.

The Bomb-itty of Errors bases it storyline on William Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, a play about mistaken identity between two sets of twins. Fast forward to contemporary hip-hop culture and this Ephesian setting now dazzles with dance. Multiple award-winning playwright Jordan Allen-Dutton,  Jason Catalano, Gregory Qaiyum and Erik Weiner collaborated with composer Jeffrey Qaiyum to translate Shakespeare’s 16th-century verse to 21st-century hip-hop vernacular.

Justin Jain and Steve Pacek.

The irreverent, playful and surprisingly poetic results tease the comedic and somewhat tawdry elements from the original version. Shakespeare references riddle the performance, like when the Dromios duo wear baseball shirts with a Stratford logo, or a line in the play that says, “As a reason for love’s labours lost.”

Four male actors (Wayne T. Carr, Justin Jain, Michael O’Brien and Steve Pacek) split the production’s 20+ roles between them. These roles include two sisters, Adriana and Luciana.  These roles require the actors to don blueberry and bubble gum pink ruffled dresses and curlicued wigs in order to steal scenes  in drag.  All the costumes creatively pay homage to New York’s street culture.

Who plays which character becomes inconsequential in this production, thanks to lightning-fast costume changes and continual scene transitions coordinated by Sound Designer and onstage D.J. Mark Valenzuelas. A few quieter moments provide a necessary rest for the audience so they can keep up with the action and take in Samuel Antonio Reye’s animated and clever choreography.

An extra-special moment occurs when Wayne T. Carr emits his innate machismo by singing about being “the greatest lover in the world” to Luciana, affectionately known to him as “Lulu.” Another is when Pacek bumps and grinds perfectly in the part of bad girl Desi, the woman of ill repute.  This accomplished acting quartet creates a breathtaking spectacle on a small stage. Eye-catching, yet also intimate, their performance is spellbinding.

In the second act, the performance tries to tie up the loose ends of what the actors call “this comedy of errors,” a pun which induces groans from the audience.  Additionally, the constant criss-crossing of the stage by several actors might be considered over the top–a small oversight in this tour-de-force of rap, rhyme and rhythm, directed by Philadelphia’s Megan Nicole O’Brien.

Everyone over the age of thirteen can enjoy this modern revision of Shakespeare, delightful in its high-flying humor and hip-hop genre that theatergoers can finally experience in Milwaukee. The madcap frivolity that is the Bomb-itty of Errors shines through its manic comedy, leaving no performance errors.

The Rep’s Stackner Cabaret produces The Bomb-itty of Errors through May 8.  For tickets or more information, call 414.224.9490 or visit

Categories: Theater

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