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Theater/Performance Review:

"The Bomb-itty of Errors" at Royal George Cabaret Theatre

BY LUCIA MAURO

Talk about traversing time, space and the vagaries of language! In the Royal George Cabaret Theatre, formerly occupied by the squeaky clean 1950’s teen crooners of "Forever Plaid," a quintet of classically infused rappers is giving audiences some clever new streetwise moments to remember. "The Bomb-itty of Errors," originally a senior project presented in 1998 at New York University’s Experimental Theatre Wing and an off-Broadway hit, now spins its hip-hop-infused iambic pentameter in Chicago.

Directed and developed by Andy Goldberg, this ultra-contemporary musical version of William Shakespeare’s "The Comedy of Errors" about two sets of separated twins (one rich; one poor) who reunite after many years and spark wildly chaotic cases of mistaken identity, is well suited to an "ad-rap-ta-tion."

This 90-minute rap-poetry opera buffa highlights the versatile and dynamic skills of its writer-performers (playing close to 20 quick-change characters): Gregory J. Qaiyum ("GQ"); Jordan Allen-Dutton ("Rodan"); Erik Weiner ("Red Dragon"); Charles Anthony Burks ("Chuck Booty"—replacing original writer Jason Catalano); and savvy spinmeister DJ J.A.Q. (Jeffrey Qaiyum, Gregory’s brother). Their fiery intelligence and energy cannot be denied.

But, despite copious sexual double entendres and the reimagining of the two sets of identical twins (two named Antipholus; two named Dromio) as the unexpected offspring of a rapper and his beauteous young girlfriend who places the infants in separate foster homes before both parents allegedly commit suicide, "Bomb-itty of Errors" comes across as oddly sanitized – including Geoffrey M. Curley’s inventive but faux-urban set of corrugated metal and graffiti.

And for all their efforts to clean up rap from its violent and sexist tendencies, the creators fall victim to caricatures of a psycho cop and one-dimensional women (mainly a gold-digging hooker, Antipholus’ frustrated wife and her ditzy sister). At times, the speedy toggling between Elizabethan English and modern urban speech can be a bit jolting. In addition, a number of their jokes tend to ramble or fizzle out, especially those spouted by the Shylock-based Hasidic jeweler named M.C. Handelberg who fashions a gold chain for Antipholus’ wife in the shape of a steering wheel complete with the Club attached.

On the positive side, the actors demonstrate a keen sense of dramatic structure, rapid-fire pacing in the Keystone Cop vein and -- as expected -- ingenious word play. A subplot involving a wannabe rapper who can’t rhyme is especially riotous; and the rappers are wonderfully adept at bolting over the fourth wall. At one point, the airhead sister expresses her confusion over all the people dressed in black and wearing headsets backstage.

Flaws aside, "The Bomb-itty of Errors" lets the Bard take a funky-rhythmic new spin around 21st century vinyl.

"The Bomb-itty" of Errors" runs through August 12 at the Royal George Cabaret Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted. Tickets: $35. Call 312-988-9000 or 312-902-1500.

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