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Cranking Up Shakespeare at BU Theatre

All-male Propeller Rep stages Richard III, Comedy of Errors


Propeller's The Comedy of Errors. Photos by Manuel Harlan

An all-male repertory company acclaimed for its raucous reinvention of Shakespeare makes its Boston debut tonight at the BU Theatre, in a presentation hosted by the College of Fine Arts School of Theatre and the Huntington Theatre Company. The Propeller Theatre Company’s alternating productions of Richard III and The Comedy of Errors will be on the theater’s main stage through June 19.

Directed by Edward Hall, the plays transport both history and comedy to provocative locations. Richard III, Shakespeare’s tale of the short reign of a scheming, embattled king, is set in a gothic Victorian hospital with a Grand Guignol aesthetic, replete with a chorus of sinister orderlies. And Propeller’s Comedy of Errors, a tangled, slapstick story of mistaken identity, unfolds in a package holiday destination, where according to a review in The Independent “woozy, boozy license…makes (at least a little) sense of Shakespeare’s most improbable plot.” Critics love Propeller productions, which for all their boisterousness transcend camp to offer the Bard’s work as it was originally staged, with all-male casts.

Jim Petosa, director of the School of Theatre, says Propeller offers “a real contemporary theatrical sensibility married with a more recent fascination with original practice—looking at plays in the way they were first intended.” Petosa invited Propeller to Boston to give audiences here an “experience of a terrific work they don’t get to see,” he says. “I think what you’ll find is, audiences are used to an approach to Shakespeare that is overly reverential and mired in 19th- and 20th-century stage practice. They’ll find that seeing a Propeller version of a play isn’t just, oh, look at what they’ve done to this play, but seeing it with fresh eyes, and seeing it with delight.”

The New York Post calls Propeller’s Comedy of Errors “the bawdiest, smartest, funniest, most outrageously alive Shakespeare in ages.”


“Shakespeare challenges every preconceived notion about people, about morality, about what it is to be human,” says Propeller artistic director Hall, son of British theater director Sir Peter Hall. “Our culture and society, mainly led by the media, demands that we make instant judgments about everything. Shakespeare reminds you not to get caught up in that vortex.”

Petosa says he’s thrilled to be presenting Propeller to local audiences, calling the company’s take on Shakespeare a fun ride. “They enliven the text so it becomes irresistible,” he says.

Richard III and The Comedy of Errors run through June 19 on the main stage at the Boston University Theatre, 264 Huntington Ave., Boston. Student rush tickets are available with valid ID for $15 two hours before curtain time.

Susan Seligson can be reached at sueselig@bu.edu.

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