Yes, the naughty boys are back. The Reduced Shakespeare Company, whose trio casts have educated Pittsburgh audiences on The Complete Works of Shakespeare, All the Great Books, The Bible: The Complete Word of God, and The Complete History of American (all abridged, of course, and we also got their Millennium Musical), are back in town. They have a new target and are celebrating the show's American premiere at the O'Reilly Theatre. Here, we don't get reduced versions of well-known movies, but an overview of "the movie cliches, pretense, commercialism and implants," as writer Reed Martin described recently, of Hollywood. Though funny, as always, this reduction is not quite as solid as earlier shows.
Feeling a bit more like a work in progress, Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor's Completely Hollywood seems a bit tentative at times. The earlier, more polished shows are presented in machine-gun style at a breakneck pace. Perhaps the few slow spots here will be smoothed over once the gags are tested on more audiences. We're treated to some inviting concepts, such as the twelve rules (twelve, as in Twelve Step) of Hollywood. For instance, "every movie is a remake or a combination of two earlier movies": for example, Unforgiven + The Birdcage = Brokeback Mountain. The company, consisting of Martin, Tichenor and Dominic Conti (who also gets an "additional material" writing credit), offers a lot of these movie combo jokes - maybe too many. Other rules, like one that says "everything in the movies is a cliche," are illustrated in true Reduced Shakespeare method - by presenting examples that are humorous and true-to-life. The first act of the show covers the rules, employing typical comedy techniques as cross-dressing, puns, sound effects, and slapstick humor. The second act is a lengthy, and hilarious, film of their own (acted out on stage), which is an amalgamation of the three scripts the trio have been individually promoting throughout the first act. Of course, audience members are called to duty and water is involved - these are givens, yet never done quite the same, which keeps the company's shows fresh.
All three performers do their jobs: Conti is the young fall guy, and he is a superb physical comic; Tichenor is the put-upon egocentric Hollywood figure; Martin will basically do anything for a laugh, and is the king of irony. The ubiquitous local humor was hit and miss on the night I attended, though we did get treated to some good-natured finger-wagging when an audience member got up in the middle of the act and left the theater (too bad for her, but there were no latecomers and the guys just can't go a whole show without putting the spotlight on an audience member who is trying to arrive or leave without notice).
All in all, it's a fun time, but not nearly as side-splitting as other shows by the same writing team.
The American premiere of The Reduced Shakespeare Company in Completely Hollywood (abridged) continues through April 2 at the O'Reilly Theatre for the Pittsburgh Public Theater. or performance and ticket information, call 412-316-1600 or visit www.ppt.org or the box office.