The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (abridged)
The three players here are up to the task, with unflagging energy over the hour and 45 minutes of playing time, interrupted by a 15-minute intermission. Mark Stickney, who would appear to have the chops to do the real thing, is the "smart" player, exasperated at the antics of the goofy and lanky Jamin Gahm. The only female member, Jennifer Reeves Wilson, is a versatile, feminine yet hardly fragile comedienne, in the Lucille Ball tradition. Her Julia Child take on Titus is a highlight of the show.
The show's format offers opportunity for ad libs and localization, of which the cast and director Paul Packer take advantage. Jokes of local community colleges and ex-Governor Rod Blagojevich abound. There's room for improv and audience participation as well, as in the second half when the entire audience gets to join in a scene from Hamlet.
There are no credits listed for costume or set designers, but both are quite nicely handled. Authentic-looking Shakespearean costumes and a regal set of classical columns set the mood. The evening requires only rudimentary knowledge of Shakespeare, for the most part (though I'll confess I wouldn't have entirely gotten the jokes about Titus Andronicus without having seen trailers for Julie Taymor's film adaptation of the violent tragedy). Two hours of Shakespeare parody felt like about twice what I would have needed, though. The second half's Hamlet parody drags, as the cast does it forward and backwards, in slow motion and fast. The show's bits are mostly all good on their own, but might be more successful in smaller doses as part of a more broadly-themed comedy show.
The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (abridged) will play At The Theater Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont, Chicago through February 14, 2010. No show on Sunday February 7. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster or the Theater Building Box Office (773-327-5252).