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The Comedy of Errors (Post5 Theatre)

Ty Boice's twinning update makes Shakespeare hip.

The Comedy of Errors is one of the Bard’s lighter farces, often ignored, and it’s all a rip-off. Shakespeare modernized Roman playwright Plautus’ comedy Menaechmi and directly borrowed material from his own classics for this play about two sets of identical twins, separated at birth, who meet again. But the play’s comedy, if handled adroitly—with the right interpretation and timing—can be captivating and fresh.

Ty Boice's spirited direction successfully updates this classic all the way into skinny-jean subculture. Every player (and one row of the audience) acts as a character, stagehand and prop in this three-layer comedy that stacks jokes on top of improv on top of the original story. The result is humor that scans like Portlandia: After Dark, and maintains Shakespearean ribaldry without crossing over into NC-17 territory.

Even the patriarch Egeon (Stan Brown), the play's only character in Shakespearean garb, fits in like just another Portland crackpot. His sons—one white (Orion Bradshaw) and one black (Chip Sherman)—and their dorky hipster sidekicks (played up well by Philip Berns and Brian Burger) follow the comic example of Schwarzenegger and DeVito, when those actors played twins. Bradshaw leans toward a hard-boiled 1950s Hollywood Antipholus. (I won't spoil it, but just watch for the leash when he's arrested in a big, sweaty clinch.) But Sherman's contrasting performance recalls a young Laurence Fishburne having the time of his life. His every monologue seems to resonate at 120 decibels, at least. And in true Post5 style, the bigger the comedic adaptation, the better.

The jokes Shakespeare and Plautus intended as awkward still induce cringes despite the cultural update, but the best belly laughs are dirty or diabolical, like Angelo's (Dan Robertson) crowd-pleasing slip when he calls Antipholus "Signor Anti-Syphilis." The company's five resident players mercilessly riff off each other throughout the play, mocking one actor's sing-songy "jing-a-ling, jing-a-ling…" tic every time a certain gold chain is mentioned. Soon, the audience can't help but chime in, too.

Post5 is still a young company, and it shows—but more in the players' manic energy and the bare bones of its un-air-conditioned space than in any way we'd fault. When the house lights go down, that work-in-progress stage becomes a convincing miniature Portland, and the patrons are players, too, because Boice keeps everyone in on the joke. 

SEE IT: The Comedy of Errors is at Post5 Theatre, 1666 SE Lambert St., 971-258-8584, 1. 7:30 pm Fridays-Sundays through June 27; 7:30 pm Thursday, June 25. $20.