The last show of Theatre Works 27th season is "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)" written by The Reduced Shakespeare Company. The show is a parody of the plays written by Shakespeare, all 37 plays in 90 minutes.It is an irreverent, fast-paced romp through all the Bard's plays in shortened form by only three actors. The actors speak directly to the audience during much of the play and some scenes involve audience participation. Improvisation plays an important role in this show with the actors deviating from the script.They open the show with a parody of "Romeo and Juliet", then combine the comedies into one convoluted reading by stating that they recycle the same plot devices. They then tackle the histories and the tragedies. The second act is a very hilarious performance of Hamlet. Laura Benjamin directs her talented and energetic performers in the show wonderfully, bringing a lot of shtick and slapstick antics to keep the audience entertained all evening long.
Laura gives each actor their moment to shine in this show. Stage manager Lydia Mattera keeps things running smoothly all night long.Mark Anderson built the beautiful set which looks like a medieval castle while Sharon Charette made the gorgeous multitude of Shakespearean costumes for this comic romp with Josh's red brocade costume as one of the standouts.Josh Smith, Edward Benjamin III and Paul Adam are brilliant in this show playing multiple roles. Some highlights include the Scottish play being reduced to one duel while they explain it in funny Scottish accents, all of the histories are acted out through a football game, they also reduce Othello to a rap song since none of them are black. Near the end of the first act they realize they haven't included the most famous play in it and Paul runs out pursued by Ed. This leaves Josh alone to call for intermission. Before they return Josh hands out index cards to cover the Sonnets and are able to devote the time to Hamlet. Hamlet is delivered several times with the speed of delivery increased each time and they finish by performing it backwards which leaves the audience in stitches. A woman in the audience is asked to play Ophelia for the Nunnery scene and the rest of the audience plays Ophelia's subconscious and is divided into three sections that each represent her ego, superego and id. Some of the actors best moments include when Josh is Romeo, Polonius, Laertes, and dressed as Juliet's nurse with the fake boobs on the outside of the costume. (He has come a long way to become a talented actor since I first directed him as the gong bearer in "Emperor's Nightingale" when he was 7) Ed is hilarious as Hamlet especially in the puppet segment when the two puppets start humping each other.. Another funny moment is when he takes his willie out which is really a manuscript. Paul is a hoot when he is disguised as Juliet, Ophelia, wearing wigs, runs into the audience pretending to vomit on them, winning much laughter. He also invoked many laughs from the crowd when Ophelia drowns by pouring a glass of water in his face. So for a rip-roaring evening of merriment be sure to catch this rendition of Bill Shakespeare's shows. You will not stop laughing all night long.