It’s got to be fast on its feet and full of slapstick, site gags and as must shtick as can be mustered to keep it popping.  Thought to be Shakespeare’s first stab at the genre, “Comedy of Errors” is built on the outlandish premise that two sets of separated identical twins with the same names—two servants and their two masters—land on the same shore on the same day, haplessly stirring up all kinds of passions. The masters break vows and break hearts and the servants nearly get their brains broken in with blows. While rife with possibilities, it’s a pretty goofy premise and the play’s jokes are not necessarily helped along by heightened and archaic language. But the Propellor gets it. The award-winning English Shakespeare troupe turns out a crowd-pleaser by treating the play more like folk art than fine art. Its cartoon-like characters would almost equally be at home in an English pantomime as they are flinging about blank verse. Certainly they know how to speak the speech, they just never allow it to become precious, spitting out rhetoric, puns and rhymes like they’re simply talking trash. Some easy laughs are born from the fact that Propeller is all male. Their female characters are the kinds of wonderful nightmares in drag who could easily have stepped out of a Kids in the Hall sketch. But the old cross-dressing bit is just one of the comedic tools in its impressive bag of tricks. The troupe brings “Comedy of Errors” to a run-down Mexican village complete with errant chicken squawks and peopled by a sombrero sporting mariachi pick-up band as a chorus. The play’s minor characters get to riff and strut to their hearts’ content. One plot point hinges on the selling of an expensive chain, and in this version its vendor is an incensed pawnshop sleaze, resplendent in silver and gold lamé. Another twist brings a religious exorcist to the stage who here appears as flamboyant tent-show revival preacher. As with the best comedies, it’s unmistakable that these actors are having the times of their lives with these hammy parts and such fun is contagious. Remarkably, the same can be said of the bloody, bloody “Richard III“ which Propeller is performing in repertory with this comedy. To get the full effect of this troupes’ ingenuity and skill, see both if you possibly can. Directed by Edward Hall and designed by Michael Pavelka, “The Comedy of Errors” is presented by the B.U. Department of Theatre in association with the Huntington Theatre Company. It plays at the B.U. Theatre through June 19.

About The Author

Jason Rabin is a Blast contributing editor

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