The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) is a ridiculous romp through Shakespeare’s comedies, histories, and tragedies in about an hour and a half. This zany Theatre in the Park production, directed by David Henderson, features actors Andy Hayworth, Jason Daniel Sharp, and Jesse R. Gephart playing heavily contrived versions of themselves; and the costumes, designed by Shawn Stewart-Larson, are to die for. For most of the show, the actors wear tights and one-piece rompers, with brightly colored Converse tennis shoes. Hayworth sports some notably hilarious wigs and purposefully ugly dresses for a good chunk of the show as well.
The show features a simple set of stacked boxes designed by Stephen J. Larson that merely serves as a backdrop to the crazy onstage antics that ensue. The first “play” the cast puts on is a crazy rendition of Romeo and Juliet, full of stage fighting, a large dummy, and some great pop culture references. For example, when one of the characters announces he’s “the prince,” another quips, “Don’t you mean the character formerly known as the prince?” Things just get crazier from there.
Titus Andronicus becomes a bloody cooking show. Othello is transformed into a rap by three actors who are whiter than Wonder Bread, Macbeth is performed with Scottish burrs thick enough to slice, and all 16 Shakespearean comedies are condensed into a single play.
The actors all seem to be having a blast on stage, giving the show a high-energy feel. Andy Hayworth’s character is a nervous wreck with a less than solid understanding of Shakespeare, Jesse Gephart is only slightly more knowledgeable, and Jason Sharp looks great in a pair of tights. Together, they add in several funny ad-libs that are sure to change from night to night. During last Friday night’s performance, one of the actors even went so far as to grab a critic and threaten his life. Audience members are also brought on stage to help reenact a scene from Hamlet, so the show will offer a certain degree of novelty with each viewing.
Although The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) is enjoyable, many of the jokes wear thin after awhile, bordering too heavily on the college humor side of things. Andy Hayworth, for example, pretends to vomit on the audience a few too many times; and the actors take far too many punches to the groin. This is not the play to see for audience members interested in a smart comedy. It’s silly fluff, but it is semi-fun silly fluff.
SECOND OPINION: Sept. 19th Classical Voice of North Carolina review by Alan R. Hall: http://cvnc.org/reviews/2010/092010/TiP1.html. (To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of the Sept. 18th Triangle Theater Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2010/09/theatre-in-the-park-opens-its-2010-11-season-with-the-complete-works-of-shakespeare-abridged/.)
Theatre in the Park presents THE COMPLETE WORKS OF SHAKESPEARE (ABRIDGED) at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 23-25 and Oct. 1 and 2 and 3 p.m. Sept. 26 and Oct. 3 in the Ira David Wood III Pullen Park Theatre, 107 Pullen Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.
TICKETS: $22 ($16 students, seniors 60+, and active-duty military personnel).
BOX OFFICE: 919/831-6058 or http://www.etix.com/.
The Play: http://www.reducedshakespeare.com/wp/?page_id=254 (official web page).
Reduced Shakespeare Company: http://www.reducedshakespeare.com/ (official website).