The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)
By Adam Long, Daniel Singer, & Jess Winfield
Directed by Jim Helsinger
Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, Orlando FL

Do they rewrite this show every single time it’s presented? Apparently so, since while this show relies on one of the earliest-still-read English authors it’s also tabloid fresh and filled with current pop references. Comic geniuses Brad DePlanche, Phillip Nolen and Chris Patrick Mullen blast out all four walls and part of the roof as they set out to educate us about all 884,647 words The Bard penned. Naturally, some works are glossed over; I think Cymbeline got half a line and the word “leer” was mentioned in passing but Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet get beat to a pulp. I’ll bet you guessed this is no studied theoretical exercise in subtext and alliteration, its fart jokes and tit gags and butt kicking slapstick, all in the spirit of Billy Boy’s original audiences standing in the pit for a six pence and a bag of Hazel nuts wanted to see.

Romeo and Juliet gets the kindest treatment; DePlanche puts on his girly wig for the first and not the last time tonight. The cool thing is you get all the important plot points in about 5 minutes and while it’s not as heart wrenching as last season’s Made For TV R&J it makes you feel a lot better about not understanding all the endless iambic pentameter. The Histories reduce to a football game (not that bad an analogy), Titus Andronicus becomes a Vinnie Price inspired cooking show. One of the funnies scenes comes at the end of the first act: Mr. Nolan suggests doing a full Hamlet, Mr. Mullen flees for the airport with DePlanche in tow, and Nolan has a full fledged breakdown. Nothing entertains like watching someone’s whole life collapse on stage.

The second act beats Hamlet to death, we get only the quotable speeches and some puppets and plastic swordplay. Then they repeat it in 5 minutes, and then 15 seconds, and then backwards. I could have used one less version, but that’s the heart of high speed comedy: the jokes can be lousy, but if there’s enough of them and they come all fast and furious, everyone will be laughing so hard they won’t notice the quality. This is definitely not for the Shakespeare Purist; it’s aimed completely at the Shakespearian Anarchist.

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