Bawdy, raucous and played with slapstick abandon, The Comedy of Errors at BAM's Harvey Theater has all the trademarks of the Propeller troupe: lively, gender-bender antics that celebrate Shakespeare's language with muscular verve.
Here, the farce comes fast and furious.
In director Edward Hall's inventive hands, two sets of separated twins find themselves in a south-of-the-border town, unaware that their double is there, too. Mistaken identity subjects the brothers to a series of exasperating moments. Merry bachelor Antipholus of Syracuse (Dugald Bruce-Lockart) is content to party with his abused servant Dromio (Richard Frame), while his married brother, Antipholus of Ephesus (Sam Swainsbury), accompanied by his Dromio (Jon Trenchard), encounters endless domestic travails.
For starters, his brother sleeps with Adriana, his S&M-loving wife (a wild Robert Hands), while besotted by her sister (a nunchuck-wielding David Newman), who is stunned by her brother-in-law's attention. Throw in a dominatrix abbess (Chris Myles), a sassy courtesan (Kelsey Brookfield) and a swaggering macho cop (Dominic Tighe) and this Comedy ratchets up the fun. To Hall's credit, the production manages to revel in the rich text while pushing the zany, over-the-top action.
Of course, the all-male Propeller troupe is known for its athletic renditions of Shakespeare; Dromio is regularly pummeled in Three Stooges fashion. In fact, the violence, often of the vaudevillian variety, is punctuated by musical sounds, since a strolling mariachi band is conveniently on hand. (They perform a wonderful "Material Girl" at intermission.)
Designer Michael Pavelka has fashioned a seedy '70s-style look, augmented by colorful lighting. The setting works, as do the uniformly solid performances. One quibble: because the dialogue is rendered at warp speed, it's easy to miss the occasional line. Still, Hall has mined Comedy of Errors for both its darkness and light; his every "why hath a wherefore."