Do you like Shakespeare? Do you like theater?
Even if you answered no to both questions, it’s not a problem. The RC Player’s production of Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield’s “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” will make you laugh anyway.
In just 97-minutes, a dozen actors run through all 37 of Shakespeare’s classics. Some scenes are slightly improvised, but it’s the RC Players’ loose style that really makes it feel like the jokes and one-liners burst spontaneously from the actors.
“Complete Works” riffs freely on Shakespeare’s esteemed profile. In reference to the Royal Shakespeare Company, the on-stage actors call themselves the Reduced Shakespeare Company, complementing the craze the original RSC stirred up with their campus visit last fall.
“There has been a lot of hype around Shakespeare with the RSC coming,” RC senior and director Lisa Fetman said. “This show does handle the Shakespeare text very honestly but it’s also silly and absurd.”
Never has a statement been more true. Titus Andronicus has his own grotesque cooking show. Four peoples rap and beat-box their way through Othello’s tragedy. And the ebullient actors don’t ever show signs of exhaustion.
“The play is unique and over the top,” Fetman said. “And actually, because of the improvisation, the performance on Friday will probably turn out differently from the performance on Saturday.”
Watching these players perform is like stepping in as the special guest on a sitcom, especially in the audience-participation component of the show, when the audience becomes involved in the clowning around onstage. The cross-dressing, interpretive dance and Shakespearean Expert (having read two books on Will) are pure entertainment.
“With people playing so many different characters and changing roles, this show combines everything entertaining in the world into one performance,” Fetman said. “The show never grows old.”
Perhaps most enjoyable and ingenious is the cast-wide football game in Act One, which depicts a combination of several Shakespeare storylines. When a character proclaims, “Why can’t this Shakespeare stuff be more like sports?” the rest of the actors get into position to pass a crown as if passing a football. King Lear dodges left and Macbeth runs for the end zone. Unconventional, yes, but the characters stay true to the plots of their respective plays.
Among other shockers – notably a robotic dinosaur and Scottish accents – it’s initially surprising so much time is dedicated to the first Shakespeare play of the set. With only 97 precious minutes, “Romeo and Juliet” consumes about seven. To make up for the extravagance, all 16 of Shakespeare’s comedies are combined into one fabulous creation. It’s a gutsy scene, but just after preparing to wince, you realize it works.