Shakespeare – fast!
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With Shakespeare dead these many years, pity the great bard, whose work has been reduced, dissembled and transmogrified from lofty works of art to all manner of bizarre interpretation. Riffing off the notion that any Shakespeare is good Shakespeare, three performer-playwrights set out in the 1980s to create a Shakespeare “greatest hits” performance accessible to all. The result is “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged),” which includes, among other things, a 40-second version of “Hamlet,” a mash-up of all the historical plays into a football game and, it must be said, a whole lotta drag, nut-shot jokes, puns and pratfalls.
In short, if you’re serious about your Shakespeare, this ain’t the show for you. If, on the other hand, you enjoy a lot of good laughts, it’s tough to beat this popular show. Directed by Shelly Bordas and featuring Chris Willard, Dustin Murphy and Seth Maisel, the Backstage has cooked up just the right formula of madness to do justice to “Complete.”
The premise that all of Shakespeare can be done in two acts by three actors begins to make sense when the audience sees things like all of the comedies rolled into one (Shakespeare, we’re told, used essentially the same plot devices for all his comedies). “Othello” is handled as a rap, “Titus Andronicus” is presented as a cooking show and “Macbeth,” well, let’s just say Mike Meyers has nothing on Chris Willard when it comes to an impenetrable Scottish accent.
With everything save “Hamlet” covered in Act I, that leaves the second act free for a thorough exploration of the events in Denmark. With the audience now in on the game, it leaves the three actors free to do as they will with “Hamlet.” They do it backwards, forwards, fast, slow and with maximum audience participation. This aspect is perhaps this play’s greatest achievement: Where else can you find a roomful of people happily screaming out “Cut the crap, Hamlet! My biological clock is ticking, and I want babies now!”? Those unwilling to participate are quickly ferreted out and cajoled into taking part.
“Complete” is one of those shows that’s never the same as the last; each night is different as the actors try out new ad-libs and confront new audiences. All three actors are up to the task and appear to be having a wonderful time on stage. As crowd pleasers go, they don’t get much more fun than this.
In addition to the regular run, there will be a “Champagne Opening” Saturday that’s $28 for adults and $16 for children, starting at 6:30 p.m. The show includes appetizers from Harvest Catering.
The show does contain mature language and suggestive situations and likely isn’t appropriate for kids under 10. The Backstage will also offer some Wednesday night shows and a “Super Sunday” rate of $12.
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