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Emmys 2017
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Article

Da Bomb-itty of Errors James Joyce's The Dead

Posted on

James Joyce's the Dead

type:
Stage
Current Status:
In Season
performer:
Christopher Walken

We gave it an A

First, a moment of silence for Wrong Mountain. David Hirson’s lovely play about a poet desperate for recognition posted closing notice soon after opening last month. Dismissed by some important critics and starved of marquee stars (where’s Susan Lucci when you need her?), Wrong Mountain reinforces the conventional wisdom that Broadway is no longer a safe place for serious new plays. Ironically, even as it was being aborted, two new musicals — one on Broadway and one Off — were renewing hope in the American musical.

Don’t be put off by the description of The Bomb-itty of Errors, an Off Broadway, hip-hop twist on Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors. Yes, it’s one of the bard’s less stellar endeavors, and simply following the plot is almost more trouble than it’s worth. Two sets of twins are mismatched at birth, then they all bump into each other as adults. Hilarity, as they say, ensues. Maybe it’s a stretch to say that The Bomb-itty of Errors improves on Shakespeare, but this energetic update is a thrill nonetheless, due primarily to the jaw-dropping performances of Jason Catalano, Jordan Allen-Dutton, Gregory J. Qaiyum, and Erik Weiner. Each spews an amazing stream of clever, outrageous rap lyrics (which incorporate Shakespearean snippets) nonstop for a solid 90 minutes. The four performers, who also wrote Bomb-itty, are all white, so maybe there’s an essay here on the mass appropriation of hip-hop (it’s a good thing, isn’t it?), but I was having too much fun for such serious thought. Watching over the inspired silliness is Jeffrey Qaiyum, the MC who wrote the music and perches atop the minimal set, mixing his beats while the rest of the cast spins comic gold.

If hip-hop Shakespeare sounds odd, how about James Joyce’s The Dead, the musical? Having recently transferred to Broadway after a smash debut at Playwrights Horizons last year, this adaptation of the great short story remains both stubbornly intimate and relentlessly beautiful. Set in early 20th-century Dublin, mostly at a Christmas party given by three women for a tight-knit group of Irish friends, The Dead (with haunting parlor music by codirector Richard Nelson and Shaun Davey) invites you to lean forward to hear the offhand murmurs of the actors; you feel you’re eavesdropping on the sadness, joy, fear, and friendly politics of strangers. Finally you’re drawn in by the solid and touching performances, most notably those of Stephen Spinella, Blair Brown, and Christopher Walken, who serves as narrator and gives the proceedings a decidedly arrhythmic but fascinating heartbeat. Listen closely. The Dead will make you feel very much alive. Bomb-itty : A The Dead : A