The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)
Also see David's review of My Name is Asher Lev
Shakespeare seemed to think a good production was "two hours traffic on the stage." Some unfortunate productions of Shakespeare's works have gone far beyond two hours and have prompted one wag to note, "A law should be passed so that so many people couldn't sleep together."
But, miracle of miracles, the Great Lakes Theater Festival is now offering The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) in two hours and thirty minutes, plus intermission. This comedic spoof of the great playwright's works was written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield. The playwrights treat Shakespeare's plays with the reverence they deserve and the comedy the audience needs.
The three-man cast keeps the action and the storytelling fast and furious. Paul Hurley, Jason O'Connell and M. A. Taylor are all anyone could want for this comic tour de force. The three are obviously well trained in dance, stage fighting, singing and acting.
Charles Fee, director, keeps the comic madness controlled enough so that no one feels threatened. We can almost be sure that no humans were too seriously hurt in rehearsals and performance.
Some of the staff have tampered with the script and added local references. For example, the characters make references to Parma, an area of Cleveland. In another section a character is described as having been depressed since "the decision"; at that moment the character enters wearing a LeBron James jersey. He was roundly booed by the audience (but in good fun).
Gage Williams (scenic designer) has created a small version of the Globe Theater, which in turn has striking similarities to the Shakespeare museum in Stratford-on-Avon, England. The small background leaves plenty of stage room for the theatrical nonsense, and the set provides adequate storing space for costumes, props and three dressers.
Charlotte Yetman (costume designer) built typical Elizabethan costumes and added comedic touches for Ophelia (Hamlet), the King's ghost (Hamlet), and other characters.
Helene Peterson (choreographer) and Ken Merckx (fight choreographer) helped build a production that generates plenty of applause throughout, and at the curtain call.
In the second act the action focuses on Hamlet. This includes drafting a woman from the audience to play Ophelia by screaming and a man who is to run across the stage several times. At the same time the cast divides the audience into several teams, assigns lines and then produces one short scene from Hamlet. At the end of the Hamlet section, the cast volunteers to play Hamlet again, but much faster. After this speedy performance, they play it again even faster. Finally, in a triumph worthy of a final scene, they perform Hamlet backwards.
Even Shakespeare would be laughing at this madcap nonsense.
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) continues in the Hanna Theatre through March 27, 2011. The Hanna Theatre is part of The Cleveland PlayhouseSquare. For ticket information, telephone 216-241-6000 or visit /www.playhousesquare.org. Ticket Information: 216-241-6000.
In the spring repertory season, the Great Lakes Theater Festival complements The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) with The Two Gentlemen of Verona, which plays April 8 - 23, 2011.
The Hanna Theatre
- David Ritchey