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The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)

Long and Short of the Bard

By: Charles Giuliano - 08/20/2014

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The ghost of Hamlet’s father as a sock. Kevin Sprague photos.
The ghost of Hamlet’s father as a sock. Kevin Sprague photos.
A football set for the dynamic trio.
A football set for the dynamic trio.
Winkles as Petronius from Hamlet.
Winkles as Petronius from Hamlet.
Camping it up in a farc on the Bard.
Camping it up in a farc on the Bard.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)
By Adam Long, Daniel Singer, Jess Winfield
Directed by Jonathan Croy
Set Designers – Jonathan Croy and Patrick Brennan; Lighting Designer – Matthew Adelson; Sound Designer – Jonathan Croy; Costume Designer – Govane Lohbauer; Fight Captain – Ryan Winkles; Stage Manager – Hope Rose Kelly
Cast: Charles Sedgwick Hall, Josh Aaron McCabe, and Ryan Winkles.
Two hours and fifteen minutes with one intermission
July 4-August 24, 2014
Tina Packer Playhouse
Shakespeare & Company
70 Kemble Street, Lenox, MA 01230
413-637-3353

On a Tuesday evening the Tina Packer Playhouse at Shakespeare & Company was full to near capacity for the campy parody The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).

Clearly it is a hit and based on the laughter that surrounded us much enjoyed by the audience.

It is a part of the 450th celebration of the Bard of Avon.

The comedy began with an ersatz lecture by three scholars and a slide show of what little is actually known about the man. We learn that he virtually invented the English language including more than three thousand works and, yee gods, a hundred for genitals.

Then having introduced the premise of the evening the trio of Ryan Winkles, Josh Aaron McCabe and Sedgwick Hall, ripped off their contemporary garb to get down to their Elizabethan duds. It was the first of an evening chockablock full of lightning fast costume changes, many over the top inventive, by designer Govane Lohbauer.

With a touch of theatrical authenticity the female roles were played in drag by the threesome. Winkles in particular, a veritable genius of comedy as we have come to learn, was just outrageously mincingly feminine as the virginal Juliet. The other guys took turns camping it up with kudos to Hall for playing with his asp as Cleopatra.

Director Jonathan Croy has let his trio off the leash with slapstick, lots of pratfalls and physical comedy in this romping farce. Over the past few years, under artistic director Tony Simotes, the company has often waxed farcical.

We expected a lightning fast blitz of all of the plays. Some were condensed to a mention, like some sixteen comedies squished together.

Instead, for my money, we got way too much Romeo and Juliet in the first act and the second act, running at more than an hour, entirely focused on Hamlet. The tragic Dane was played through then reprieved in two shorter versions ending, quite and accomplishment, with one in reverse.

From the getgo there was a lot of interaction with the audience. This included recruiting a couple of “volunteers” to join in a scene and rehearsing three sections of the audience with different parts of a bit.

Getting everyone involved proved to be an effective strategy as it brought out the ham in all of us.

It was also evident that the actors were having as much fun as the audience.

Some of the bits and improv was suitably inventive and hilarious. For example the ghost of Hamlet’s father as, I’m not making this up, a sock. Good grief.

To extend the limited cast there was an outrageous use of dummies particularly in fight scenes. In a riff on Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi in the film Ed Wood one of the characters fights with an octopus.

There are lots of sly references like bits of the John Williams score for Star Wars. There was a clip of a Robin Williams imitation which brought a thunder of applause.

In particular Macbeth, The Scottish Play, performed in kilts with thick accents was terrific fun.

While we didn’t really learn much about Shakespeare in this Year of the Bard, well, a good time was had by all.

 

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