By John Baggett
It is without question that William Shakespeare is one of the greatest writers in the history of the English language, let alone the theatre. There’s just one huge problem – his plays are all incredibly long and there’s no way to see them all without doing a bit of globetrotting. Okay, that’s two problems. But, what if I told you that for one low price, you can see all 37 of The Bard’s plays in less than two hours (give or take)? No, I haven’t gone mad. Tyler Civic Theatre is bringing such a feat to life by presenting “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare…Abridged.”
“The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged” offers exactly what the title promises – a quick, yet mostly thorough, presentation of every play Shakespeare wrote. The show is a madcap and irreverent farce that doesn’t just cram the entire collection of one man’s life’s work into your head, but it also offers an examination of the man himself, along with some current day pop culture references and mild audience participation.
Created by Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Winfield, a trio of actors and writers who founded The Reduced Shakespeare Company, which would go on to create many similar productions including “The Complete History of America Abridged,” “The Complete World of Sports Abridged,” and, most recently. “William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play Abridged.” I thought I’d mention those not just a s referenced but also as suggestions to the Civic Theatre.
The basic premise of the show is that three actors are tasked to perform every single work of Shakespeare in a single performance, unless they wish to suffer the same fate as the last trio that attempted such a feat. Our actors, Dustin Simington, Blake Rohus, and Evan-Blake Winningham) embrace the challenge, starting with a quick reenactment of “Romeo & Juliet,” followed by a short presentation of “Titus Andronicus” as a cooking show. We are also treated to a rundown of all of his comedies, that all seem to be a variation of the same story 13 times, a condensed version of his histories comparing them to sports, and culminating with their recreation of the greatest play ever written, “Hamlet.”
The show is co-directed by Sean Holliday and Coby Archa, reuniting after their previous collaboration, “Noises Off.” In the five years since this joint effort, Holliday has directed “A Little Theatre” and “Farce of Nature” for TCT and Archa has directed and starred in Liberty Hall’s annual shadowcast production of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” just to name a handful of credits.
The pair have assembled a trio of incredibly talented actors who absolutely wear themselves out on stage, giving everything they have in them to make you laugh and they definitely succeed. With some assistance from the story’s original cursed trio, Wench (Emmy Anderson), Shrew (Maven Andrade), and Bob “the Tech Guy” (Jack Ragland), everyone on stage works together to deliver one of the funniest shows you will have a chance to see, not just at TCT, but anywhere.
It should be noted that the humor will not be to everyone’s taste, as it is essentially rated PG-13, but those who enjoy things like Monty Python and the works of Mel Brooks will absolutely love every second of the show.
“The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged” might not be the right show for the hardcore Shakespeare purist, but for those who want a good laugh, this is a perfect show. Go see it and, if you’re brave, you should sit in the pit.
“The Complete Works of William Shakespeare” opened on Friday, April 5, and will run through Sunday, April 14.