Four actors and a DJ take on The Bard in ‘The Bomb-itty of Errors’
Shakespeare’s themes of love, loyalty and identity have resonated with audiences for centuries. Now, Actors’ Shakespeare Project (ASP) is remixing those themes with hip-hop beats and rap battles in “The Bomb-itty of Errors.” This contemporary rendition of Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors” runs at The Charlestown Working Theatre in Chelsea through June 26.
Inspired by the golden age of hip-hop, “The Bomb-itty of Errors” is part narrative, part rap battle and part block party. Four actors play the whole cast of characters while a DJ spins beats live on stage. The show takes the slapstick nature of Shakespeare’s comedic work and upgrades it to a contemporary setting.
“Coming out of COVID, we thought, it’s a light comedy, it’s a feel-good thing, it’s entertainment — it would be nice to have a little escapism,” says director Christopher V. Edwards, who has worked with the play several times during his career. “I wanted to look at hip-hop and double down on the joy that that culture has brought to so many people.”
The plot follows two sets of identical twins separated at birth. Antipholus of Syracuse and his servant, Dromio of Syracuse, arrive on an island not knowing that their twin counterparts also live there. A series of hilarious instances of mistaken identity, wrongful accusations, near seductions and arrests ensue.
Malik Mitchell, who plays Dromio of Syracuse, looks forward to bringing Shakespeare to audiences in an accessible way. “I was really excited for young people to see this and have a good understanding of a Shakespeare play,” he says.
One of the advantages of modern adaptations of the text is that a theater company can bring Shakespeare’s words off the page of a school textbook and into a world audiences can connect with. In a familiar context, the perpetually resonant themes and humor of Shakespeare’s work shine through.
In the ASP adaptation, the setting is updated from New York to Boston. With a cast of mostly local actors, the audience will hear familiar accents and references to Boston sports teams and history.
Shakespeare’s original comedy pokes fun at its characters for their slapstick mishaps, and “The Bomb-itty of Errors” pokes respectful fun at archetypes of hip-hop culture. Edwards hopes that the humor and our ability to laugh at ourselves will bring relief to audiences during an emotionally draining time.
“This play is so funny, and there’s a strong message behind it. I hope people understand that things don’t have to be so serious,” says Mitchell. “We’re all here to have a good time.”