Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)
Playhouse on Park
Review by Zander Opper | Season Schedule

Also see Fred's review of The Roommate

Hanna Cheek, Rich Hollman, and Sean Harris
Photo by Curt Henderson
Playhouse on Park is currently presenting a crazy-funny production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged). With a cast of three talented and versatile actors (two men and a woman), the comedy takes the audience on quite a journey through Shakespeare's plays, with the main emphasis on Hamlet in the second half of the show.

It should be mentioned that, in the program, there is the notation that this version of the show has been "[Revised]." Indeed, there are references to such things as Instagram and texting that were unheard of when the writers Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Winfield first presented this work in 1987. Suffice it is to say that there are laughs aplenty throughout the show and this production should appeal to fans of Shakespeare as well as those who don't care as much for his work.

The Complete Works ... is nicely directed by Tom Ridgely, with an emphasis on the feeling of improvisation. And, while there are moments when the production gets bogged down and loses some momentum, the three performers provide enough energy and inventiveness to keep things running merrily along.

There is the skillful Hanna Cheek, who excels at playing male characters (as well as female) and she sometimes acts as a narrator, of sorts, to try and explain the shenanigans that occur throughout the show's two hour running time (including an intermission). Similarly, Rich Hollman is a master of a million faces and, like Hanna, is capable of switching characters and speeches at a moment's notice, often with a great deal of fun and crazed enthusiasm The third performer, Sean Harris, is one of the artistic directors of Playhouse on Park and, in the past, I have enjoyed his direction of Last Train of Nibroc and, especially, a super production of Hair a couple of seasons back. As it turns out, Sean is equally adept at acting, and he provides the same versatility and manic charm as his fellow performers.

Through the work of the three actors, all of the plays of William Shakespeare are represented, some with just a word or two and, in the case of Shakespeare's comedies, they are all combine for a wild scene before the end of the first act. Considering its classic importance, the actors' presentation of Hamlet is given the most amount of stage time, with the entire second act of the show devoted to enacting the play. This is not to say, though, that the audience is treated to anything resembling a cogent presentation of this work. Not to give too much away, but the audience is memorably treated to several reenactments of Hamlet, each one getting faster and crazier until one begins to think that the actors will collapse from sheer exhaustion.

Thanks to the abundance of outfits provided by the wonderful costume designer Kate Bunce, Hamlet—like the other Shakespeare works represented here—is turned on its ear and, eventually, gets condensed to just a brief (and hurried) outline of the play.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) at Playhouse on Park ultimately proves to be quite an entertaining journey through all of the Bard's plays. Thanks to the boundless energy of the cast and the sustained direction by Tom Ridgely, there is a great deal of fun and merriment throughout.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) continues performances at Playhouse on Park in West Hartford, CT through July 30, 2017. For tickets, please visit or call the box office at 860-523-5900.

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