Secrets are uncovered, and misunderstandings lead to mishaps in two local theater productions. In Loy A. Webb's "The Light" at The Lyric Stage Company (through June 26), couple Genesis and Rashad's magical, love-filled evening turns sour when Genesis illuminates a painful moment from the past, and in Actors' Shakespeare Project's "The Bomb-itty of Errors," a hip-hop centered adaptation of Shakespeare's "Comedy of Errors," (also through June 26), one set of twins is mistaken for another and comedy and trouble ensue.
In the Lyric Stage production, directed by Jacqui Parker, portraits of the late poet Maya Angelou, singer Beyoncé, former first lady Michelle Obama and late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg hang in Genesis' (Yewande Odetoyinbo) well-decorated apartment. As she comes in the door from work, her boyfriend Rashad (Dominic Carter), a firefighter and former high school football star, is cleaning up the place. He plans to propose and has a romantic night planned that includes a concert.
The way Carter's Rashad and Odetoyinbo's Genesis converse in this 70-minute emotional punch of a play feels natural, beautiful and fun. The Black couple flirts, skillfully and lovingly poking fun and displaying adulation for one another. Things take a harsh turn as Genesis says yes to Rashad's question and readies for their night out. They disagree on how they should spend the night, and at first, Genesis might appear unreasonable. But once her stance is divulged, their bond is put to the test. Rashad doesn't immediately understand Genesis' point of view, and their fight — which throws male privilege, sexual assault, systemic oppression, and more on the table — threatens their relationship. If they don't empathize and forgive one another, it could spell the end of their love story. The story — with lovely set design from Baron E. Pugh — is a welcome one, with great performances from both Carter and Odetoyinbo. There aren’t too many love stories centering a Black couple, and the actors’ natural abilities make their romance seem believable and their pain palpable.
In "The Bomb-itty of Errors," by Jordan Allen-Dutton, Jason Catalano, Gregory J. Qaiyum and Erick Weiner, there's another set of issues. Two sets of twins, Dromio of Syracuse, Dromio of Ephesus, Antipholus of Ephesus and Antipholus of Syracuse, all lead very different lives. Still, a couple of cases of mistaken identity turn their worlds upside down.
Directed by Christopher V. Edwards, the show, long-delayed due to COVID-19, is a "love letter to hip-hop and an ode to Shakespeare," he writes in his director's note. Edwards came of age during the birth of hip-hop and has been angling to stage the show for some time. The play's plot gets remixed with the intricate language of the Bard and the poetry of the musical genre — lovers of rap will notice all the cultural references.
DJ WhySham (Shamara Rhodes), perched high above the rainbow pinwheel-designed floor at the show, sets the atmosphere with music. The colorful set — also by Pugh — features wavy metal walls with “Bomb-itty” spelled out in yellow and red graffiti, a purple door with “O.P.P.” painted on one and “411” on another.
For those unfamiliar with this early narrative of Shakespeare's, a prologue sets up the story on the playwrights' website. An MC and his wife have quadruplets, two sets of identical twins. The bigger pair is named Antipholus, and the smaller pair is named Dromio. The couple is forced to give up their kids for adoption and the twins are separated. One set of twins comes of age in the city of Ephesus and the other in Syracuse.
At the play's start, Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse (Anderson Stinson III and Malik Mitchell, respectively), who are in their 20s and poor, show up in Ephesus, where the other twins, who are wealthy, live. (Henry Morehouse plays Dromio of Ephesus and Victoria Omoregie portrays Antipholus of Ephesus.) As soon as all the siblings are in the same place, marriage problems, disagreements over money and more take center stage in this funny but chaotic play.
Stinson, who recently starred in "Black Super Hero Magic Mama," gives another solid performance here. He's charismatic and cool in this role and his energy ramps up when his co-stars Mitchell, Omoregie and Morehouse share scenes with him. All of the cast members play multiple characters, but Mitchell — who appeared in SpeakEasy's "Once on this Island" — is quite the performer extraordinaire. When it comes to his flow, Mitchell has a dynamic delivery. But his shining moment is when he comes onstage as a Rastafarian herbalist, Dr. Pinch. Clad in a multipaneled cape, Mitchell brings all the reggae energy.
Morehouse, who portrays Dromio of Ephesus, is most engaging as Luciana, the sister of Adriana who is married to Antipholus (well, one of them anyway). Luciana is well-meaning but dim-witted. Though Morehouse might not come across as a super-ill MC per se, his diction is the clearest. There was no struggle to understand his lines, and his improv skills are fantastic. Many times, Morehouse's antics spurred loud laughter from audience members.
Omoregie's best moment is portraying the delivery guy who wants to rap but can't figure out how to rhyme.
As the show unfolds, there's a lot more that happens in between. New characters are introduced, and true identities are discovered in this fast-paced show. Unlike many Shakespearean plays, there's no deep moral, but the show's great rhyming, skilled cast and hilarity make for a fun production.