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First-Hand Report from NY: Propeller’s “The Comedy of Errors”

By Enoch Brater

U-M Professor Enoch Brater is on sabbatical in New York this semester and caught an early performance of Propeller’s The Comedy of Errors at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) last week.   He offers this first-hand report:

Propeller’s lively production of The Comedy of Errors offers us the rare opportunity to see Shakespeare’s early play in a contemporary idiom that respects both the movement and meaning of the text.  It’s a wonderful show that rarely misses a beat.  And it would be a big mistake to miss it when it plays in Ann Arbor.

Combining any number of comic elements drawn from vaudeville, commedia dell’arte, the Keystone Kops and pure and unadulterated schtick, Edward Hall’s company will have you laughing out loud and often.  It’s sometimes hard to tell who’s having more fun: the energetic actors or the audience (my guess is both).   There’s an awful lot to notice here: everything from stage design to stage lighting to costuming and most especially music works to “propel” this sly display into madcap motion.  This is no mere look-ma-no-hands approach (though it is sometimes that):  when references to the here-and-now intrude, they do so not to upstage or dumb-down Shakespeare but rather to pinpoint the timelessness of the comedy of errors so seamlessly built into this script.

The all-male cast, inspired by both Elizabethan cross-dressing and Dame Edna, makes a hilarious mayhem of the construction of identity, sexuality and gender.  You’ll be amused by the confusion of Propeller’s characters (in both senses of the word), but you’ll leave this show impressed by the clarity and precision with which it has all been so deftly put together.  Loosen-up: it’s King Leer time.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Enoch Brater, the Kenneth T. Rowe Collegiate Professor of Dramatic Literature, is on sabbatical leave this semester in New York working on the notebooks and personal diaries of Arthur Miller (UM ’38). He saw the Propeller production of "The Comedy of Errors" at BAM on March 17, 2011.

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