Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

William Shakespeare's Long Lost First Play (Abridged)
Folger Theatre
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's reviews of The Mystery of Love & Sex, The Nether and All the Way


Austin Tichenor
Photo by Teresa Wood
This year marks the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare—what better excuse is there for Washington's Folger Theatre to welcome back the Reduced Shakespeare Company with the world premiere of William Shakespeare's Long Lost First Play (Abridged)?

Founding company members Reed Martin (the slim, bald one) and Austin Tichenor (the gray-haired one) wrote and directed this latest hilariously skewed look at the works of the Bard of Avon, joined by Teddy Spencer (the blond one). The references are "inside-baseball" enough that Shakespeare neophytes won't understand most of them, but non-Shakespeareans probably will still laugh at the puns, the physical humor, and the interaction between the cast members and the audience. Warning—don't arrive late.

The premise of the show is that the performers discovered an enormous manuscript in a parking lot in Leicester, England (where the bones of the real Richard III were unearthed a few years ago), and discovered that the massive script contains every character and most of the plot points of the entire Shakespearean canon. However, since the full work would take 100 hours to perform, they have pared it down to the essentials.

The plot, such as it is, centers on an escalating battle between Puck and Ariel. Among other things, Juliet is paired with Dromio of Syracuse rather than Romeo, Lady Macbeth sets out to cure Hamlet's melancholy, Cleopatra instead of Titania falls in love with a Midwestern-accented Bottom (whose costume is part of a running joke about the overlap between the works of Shakespeare and Walt Disney), and the three witches come to life as creepily amusing puppets designed by Freya Marcellus. Also on the bill: a sweet-natured Richard III, grumpy Lear, and grim "Malvoliago." The actors make their blink-and-you'll-miss-it transformations with the help of a tireless crew.

To accommodate the actors' shenanigans, the staging is simple. The scenic design consists of one flat upstage behind which the actors make their changes from one of Skipper Skeoch's absurd costumes to the next and where they stash their props.

The entertainment doesn't end on the stage. The Folger Shakespeare Library is celebrating 400 years of Shakespeare with a sumptuous exhibit in the Great Hall, "America's Shakespeare," which includes letters, playbills, posters, historic costumes, silent and sound film excerpts, and many other resources. The exhibit is open to the public, not just ticketholders.

Folger Theatre
William Shakespeare's Long Lost First Play (Abridged)
April 21st - May 8th
Written and directed by Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor
Cast: Reed Martin, Austin Tichenor, Teddy Spencer
201 E. Capitol St., SE
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-544-7077 or www.folger.edu


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