by Genese Lefkowitz
I still remember standing in front of the bookcase in my Aunt's house when I was in seventh grade, reaching out a curious hand to pull a copy of Romeo and Juliet off the shelf. I sat down on the front steps to read it and since then I have been in love with all things Shakespearean. Unlike many I know, my love for the man and his work does not preclude me from hating anything not done with a ruff around the neck of the actor who speaks perfect, nasal, British-intoned Elizabethan English. As a matter of fact, one of the things I adore most about Shakespeare is that his plays are universal, and the storylines and themes can be told in any time.
I held my breath waiting for the DiCaprio/Danes film version of my favorite play, and I adored it. (Hmm, do I hear the sounds of disgruntled Shakespearean snobs reaching for their mouses to delete this column? As they click off are the also wondering if mouse should be "mice" in this sentence?) Good. Now that they are all gone, let me let you in on one of the gems of Off-Broadway, a wonderful little play called The Bomb-itty of Errors. When I first heard about it, I looked up the Bomb-itty web site which included pictures and bios of the four young men in the cast. I surfed the site thinking, "Oh look, some pretty little white boys." What I didn't know then was damn, these pretty little white boys are amazing!
Based on Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors, Bomb-itty could be retitled, "Knaves in the Hood." The entire show is done by the four young men playing all the parts and rapping and singing all the dialogue. The basic story involves two sets of twins born to parents who have had a "hard knock life." For some absurd reason, two of the twins are big and two of them are scrawny, and to further complicate the matter, they share only two names among the four of them. The small ones are named Dromio and the big ones are named Antipholus. Now, stay with me here...after the demise of their parents, the boys are separated, one small Dromio and one big Antipholus in a set, and they are raised in separate towns unaware of their other brothers's existence. Eventually they come together in a rush of mistaken identities and of course, mayhem ensues.
Now, keep in mind the rap format. It colors everything in a delightful way immediately. As soon as the doors open, those waiting in their seats are entertained by the (self described) "mad-catchy" original music being mixed in the upper, stage right booth by DJ "J.A.Q.," (Jeffrey Qaiyum). If you thought the twin thing was confusing, in addition to character names each of these guys has a rap name in addition to the ones on their birth certificates. Trying to figure out who is playing who from the playbill is an adventure almost as thrilling as the play itself. Sitting in the audience I looked around and realized that everyone from the grandmother on my right reading her playbill to the small pre-teen boys down front were unconsciously moving to the beats filling the room. The play started in total darkness where we heard just the sounds of the guys' voices, appropriately focusing our ears on the amazing jumble of words who's carefully constructed rhymes would make Gilbert and Sullivan stammer. One of the glories of this play is how the authors (yes, these boys wrote it too!) manage to interweave Shakespearean words like "rapscallion" and "pate" in with a whole bunch of street terms, for example coming up with a whole slew of "Thy Momma" jokes, as in, "Thy Momma is so fat..."
In addition to their roles as the twins, each actor (Jordan Allen-Dutton, Jason Catalano, Gregory J. Quaiyum, and Erik Weiner) also has at least three other roles, and of course, each ones goes in drag! Yes, these pretty little white boys get even prettier, and there is nothing like a pair or hairy legs peeking out from under a dress or a long blonde wig getting stuck on cheek stubble to get an audience rolling! Each character has their own voice, costume, and in most cases, accent! We have everyone from MC Hendelberg, (picture everyone in Crown Heights melded into one person) who greets others with "Shalomies to my homies," to Dr. Pinch, a Rastafarian who knows how plants can make people "happy." Throw in some hookers, a burnt, blonde bike messenger who cannot rhyme, a sweet but dumb sister-in-law, and even a few imaginary characters, and you have a delightful stew which must be sampled to be believed. In other plays it might be tempting to point out one actor or role, but in this show that is impossible. They work together in one seamless delight.
In the approximately 90 minutes this show runs, the boys pay homage to the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Meatloaf, and the Beastie Boys, and pull off enough quick changes to earn them Olympic medals. In the last 15 minutes it is amazing to watch the plot wind down with at least 13 characters on stage virtually simultaneously. Remember, there are only four actors and one DJ here, people! It was enough to make your head spin, and between the laughter and music I was out of breath, but the boys did it with aplomb.
I must now lay my English teacher's hat aside and say in the words of my students, "Yo, these white boys got skillz!" So, as they advise in the prologue, come down to 45 Bleaker and "Listen up close to catch an earful!" You won't be sorry, but you may be in pain from laughing so hard.
Bomb-itty of Errors
Tickets $20 - $35
Tuesday through Friday at 8 PM, Saturdays at 5 PM and 9 PM, Sundays at 3 PM and 7 PM
45 Bleecker Street - (212) 307-4100