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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

The Reduced Shakespeare Company

Also see Susan's review of Kiss of the Spider Woman

The Reduced Shakespeare Company has been making regular visits to Washington since 1993, but the company's current engagement is the first at what would seem to be its ideal home: the Shakespeare Theatre Company's Lansburgh Theatre. Interestingly, this time out the company is bypassing the Bard, focusing instead on its freeze-dried versions of American history and the Bible. The laughs are fairly constant, coming from an unprecedented blend of intellectual humor and low-down slapstick.

Six members of the cast travel with the company, out of whom three perform in The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged) and The Complete History of America (abridged). At the press performances, the cast members were chunky, goateed Jerry Kernion; dark, studious-looking Michael Faulkner (in other words, he wears glasses); and tall, thin Dominic Conti, who always seems to be half a beat behind the others. They're a hoot as they race through the centuries and millennia, fumbling with wigs and props, and occasionally sprinkling the audience with high-powered water guns.

The Bible show begins with the actors in fig leaf-trimmed body stockings, backed by a disco arrangement of "Also Sprach Zarathustra" (oh, you know, the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey). Then they head offstage to put on their costumes and, as the voiceover states, "the audience was well pleased." Other highlights include the creation of Eve from Adam's rib she bursts out of Adam's chest like the monster in Alien; several puns related to circumcision; Moses listing the 10 additional commandments that didn't make the final cut; a recounting of the miracles of Jesus ("Jesus made the blind man lame. That wasn't one of his better ones"); and a rousing musical finale about Armageddon.

The Reduced Shakespeareans similarly kick the stuffing out of American history, so that Americans can "learn from our mistakes or at least blame them on someone else." Highlights include a depiction of the soldiers in George Washington's "little army" as Munchkins; a brief lesson about the Bill of Rights (people have free speech and can annoy each other, so they also get the right to carry guns); Lewis and Clark describing their journey in the manner of a bad vaudeville team; and, ultimately, a long sketch in film noir style that brings together most of the highlights, and some of the lowlights, of the past 50 years.

The Reduced Shakespeare Company
The Complete History of America (abridged) and The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged)
In repertory March 11th April 13th
By Adam Long, Reed Martin, and Austin Tichenor; additional "Bible" material by Matthew Croke
Featuring three members of the Reduced Shakespeare Company: Dominic Conti, Michael Faulkner, Jerry Kernion, Mick Orfe, Austin Tichenor, Brent Tubbs
Harman Center for the Arts, Lansburgh Theatre
450 7th St. N.W.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-547-1122 or 877-487-8849 or www.shakespearetheatre.org


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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