Who in the world thought performing 37 Shakespearean plays in 90 minutes, with only three actors, was a good idea? Lucky for us, the Sonoma, CA-based Reduced Shakespeare Company did. In 1987, they created The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged), written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Winfield.
On Feb. 17-19 and 24-26, the Cary Players are presenting an updated version of that script, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [revised], under the direction of Raleigh, NC’s Nancy Gardner Rich; and the world is a slightly better place for it. Whether you are besties with The Bard of Avon or think Shakespeare is a new dance craze, you can’t help but enjoy yourself during this a high-energy, pithy glimpse into the misunderstood world of Shakespeare.
In high school English class, somewhere between the seventh and 12th grade, you may have been subjected to some of the works of William Shakespeare. I always loved English class; however, Shakespeare’s plays were usually my least favorite lessons. Perhaps, it was due to the fact the teacher would always have the most introverted, quietest person read out loud the part that I wanted to read. As I would listen to monotone delivery of lines Romeo and Juliet or Julius Caesar, I would secretly wish that I too had a dagger to put myself out of my misery.
In 12th grade, we were assigned book reports of classic plays or authors. I guess because I “Doth protest too much,” I was punished by being assigned The Taming of the Shrew. Needless to say, my past experiences with Shakespeare have been unfavorable. If I had been presented with the luxury of seeing last night’s performance of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [revised] back then, I would have had a different attitude.
The show gives Triangle theatergoers a farcical spoof of all 37 plays: 10 Histories, 15 Comedies, and 12 Tragedies — plus 154 sonnets. It is all performed in a miraculous 90 minutes. In the current Cary Players production, Lorelei Lemon, Greg Guiliano, and Daryl Ray Carliles take the audience on a high-energy roller-coaster ride of dizzying perfection with magical comedic timing and Monty Python-type humor.
So, why exactly is everything by Shakespeare a timeless classic? Historically, he is a plagiarist who ripped off play ideas and rewrote them, extending them over multiple plays. This revised abridged version of his plays (and sonnets) cuts down to the meat and bones of the stories, condensing four-hour plays into just a few minutes each.
Director Nancy Rich does an incredible job, as she cleverly orchestrates controlled chaos. Although the show is scripted, improvisation also plays a pivotal role in the show’s success. The actors skillfully break the Fourth Wall by interacting with the audience, using the audience as pawns in the show, and incorporating a nice mix of pop culture and tasteful political humor in the process.
During the first act, we are carefully eased into some of the more famous plays, starting with a parody of Romeo and Juliet. We are introduced to the cast, and Lorelei Lemon tells us about the ins and outs of Shakespearean theater before transforming into Romeo. Greg Guiliano initially acts as our preeminent Shakespeare scholar who is taking us on a guided tour to the complete works of Shakespeare, and Daryl Ray Carliles plays the misguided actor whose prep work includes googling Shakespeare, offering us interesting “alternative facts” before transforming into the handsome Juliet.
Sixteen of Shakespeare’s shows are summed up in about two minutes as “Four Weddings and a Transvestite.” The histories are beefed up by a football quarterback theme, and “The Scottish Play” is performed in all its Scottish-kilt glory.
Just when the mission was completed, the horror of one forgotten play sends one of the actors running screaming from the theater. After an intermission, some backstage liquid courage, and the threat of the lone performer having to cover all of the sonnets, which she wrote on a 3×5-inch index card, all of the actors finally return to perform Hamlet.
Hamlet, which is traditionally a four-hour play, is performed not once, or twice, but actually thrice! The audience gets a chance to get involved by helping Daryl Ray Carliles properly channel his inner Ophelia for the get-thee-to-a-nunnery scene. The audience is transformed into the Id, Ego, and Superego before the final performance. This not only engages the audience, but adds to the hilarity of the show and is a testament to the skill of the performers.
Beautiful costumes by Carol Love are strategically placed on and around the stage, within easy access for split-second costume changes. Fight choreographer Steve Whetzel stages both realistic and whimsical sword-fighting sequences.
The unsung heroes of the show are the backstage crew and dressers: Ami Kirk-Jones, Julie Crawford, and Julie Weber. They make the magic happening on stage a much easier transition for the actors. In such a fast-paced show, the actors need 100 percent trust in their stage crew, which they clearly have.
If you love Shakespeare, hate him, or know virtually nothing about him, the Cary Players’ community-theater presentation of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [revised] is the perfect show for you. The actors are engaging, insanely funny, and absolutely perfect! The show will be performed at The Cary Theater again on Feb. 24-26.
SECOND OPINION: Feb. 6th Cary, NC Cary Citizen preview by Michael Papich: http://carycitizen.com/2017/02/06/cary-players-fit-400-years-of-shakespeare-in-90-minute-comedy/.
The Cary Players present THE COMPLETE WORKS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (ABRIDGED) [REVISED] at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 24 and 25 and 2 p.m. Feb. 26 The Cary Theater, 122 E. Chatham St., Cary, North Carolina 27511.
TICKETS: $20 ($18 students and seniors), except $17 per person for groups of 10 or more and $20 per person for tickets bought at the door.
BOX OFFICE: 919-462-2055 or http://caryplayers.org/shows/the-complete-works-of-william-shakespeare-abridged-revised/ (top right-hand column).
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgZFeg0daQk.
2016-17 SEASON: http://caryplayers.org/season/current-season/.
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [revised] (2011 comedy): http://www.reducedshakespeare.com/productions/the-complete-works-of-william-shakespeare-abridged/ (official web page) and https://www.broadwayplaypub.com/the-plays/the-complete-works-of-william-shakespeare-abridged-revised/ (Broadway Play Publishing Inc.).
Reduced Shakespeare Company (Sonoma, CA-based comedy troupe, founded in 1981): http://www.reducedshakespeare.com/ (official website), https://www.facebook.com/The-Reduced-Shakespeare-Company-24722435707/ (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/reduced (Twitter page), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reduced_Shakespeare_Company (Wikipedia).
Nancy Gardner Rich (Raleigh, NC director): https://www.facebook.com/nancy.g.rich.3 (Facebook page).
Shannon Plummer-White is no stranger to the stage! She studied Musical Theater & Opera at the American Musical Dramatic Academy in New York City, and has appeared in films such as Iron Man 3 and Safe Haven. She has also performed with the North Carolina Master Chorale and the North Carolina Symphony. When she isn’t on stage or making magic behind the scenes, she can be found in the art studio playing with fire and molten glass. She is an animal advocate with a special love of cats. She has four rescued fur children and a very supportive husband. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.