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The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)

a Comedy
CATEGORY :
by The Reduced Shakespeare Co.

COMPANY : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
VENUE : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
ID# 4042

SHOWING : June 18, 2011 - July 31, 2011

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Andrew Houchins
Lighting Designer Greg Hanthorn, Jr.
Assistant Stage Manager Jaclyn Hofmann
Stage Manager Tiffany Porter
Self Nicholas Faircloth
Self Matt Felten
Self Daniel Parvis
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REVIEWS

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Pulp Shakespeare
by Lady Mac
Thursday, June 23, 2011
4.0
During the play-within-a-play (Pyramus and Thisbe) at the end of “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Hippolyta remarks that “this is the silliest stuff that ever I heard.” You may know how she feels during “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).” The nonstop silliness of this irreverent romp through Shakespeare’s catalog won’t exactly leave you intellectually enriched but very likely will leave you aching from laughter.

The Shakespeare Tavern has done this play a few times in recent years, but this year there are some changes. Some of the cultural references have been updated (e.g., “Twilight” book out/Sarah Palin book in; Hillary Clinton out/former Rep. Weiner in), and there is an entirely new cast, compared with the most recent trio. This time around, some of the Tavern’s most gifted and entertaining young actors take on the roles of … well, pretty much every character the Bard ever created. And they do so with almost constant skill and style. A few hiccups here and there (and a few unnecessary vocal contrivances) can be forgiven amid the overall consistency of their performances.

Having seen “Complete Works” several times makes it impossible not to draw comparisons with previous incarnations. Some of the changes this time around are better (the new sketch-book prologue to “Romeo and Juliet” is funnier, for example, than the old pantomime version), and some lack a little of the luster of past productions (the “Macbeth” portion in particular seems to have lost something, including one of the better lines).

Daniel Parvis, Matt Felten and Nicholas Faircloth all do admirable jobs of moving through the various plays, to varying degrees. While some of them are marked off the checklist simply because the play’s name was mentioned, others get much more in-depth abridged treatment, notably “Romeo and Juliet” and “Hamlet.” Longtime Tavern-goers will notice some sly inside jokes, such as when the actors discover that they have “forgotten” to do “Hamlet,” and Parvis chastises Felten (a multitime Hamlet at the Tavern) for letting that one slip his mind.

At times the music seemed to overpower the dialogue (or rap, as the case may be), so hopefully as the run continues that will be eased up some. And a few jokes drag a little or go on a bit too long; hopefully that, too, will be tweaked.

This is the type of show that is at its absolute best when it’s fresh for the viewer. If you’ve seen it before, a little of the magic wears off (though it’s still a fun time at the theater). But if you’ve never seen it before and don’t know what to expect – and know better than to expect Laurence Olivier-type Shakespeare – you are bound to have a really good time. A newcomer at the performance I saw had tears streaming down her face – not from the tragic tale of Romeo’s and Juliet’s doomed love, but from uncontrollable laughter.

The Tavern recently completed the entire Shakespearean canon, representing hours and hours of drama, comedy and history over the course of many, many years. If you don’t have that kind of time, try this “Cliff’s Notes” version instead. It’s “Shakespeare light,” but you just might come away with a few nuggets of knowledge in spite of yourself. And you are guaranteed never to see any of Shakespeare’s plays the same way again!
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