note: entire contents copyright 1998 by Beverly Creasey
When the RSC (that's the Reduced Shakespeare Company; not, of course, to be confused with the Royal Shakespeare Company) came to Boston a couple of years ago with their lame condensation of the Bard's 37 plays, I didn't think they were very funny. Besides, Tom Stoppard had already done it superbly in "Dogg's Hamlet". Guys in bad wigs, squeaky voices and tacky dresses are amusing for five minutes, then it gets old. Besides, those Shakespeare impersonators were from California and I didn't know them from Adam. (That brings up another of their tedious condensations, but that's a different review.)
The good news is that I do know the madcaps at the Publick Theatre, and they've reworked the original RSC text so that it's funny, adorably silly, and delightfully naughty. Sophomoric to be sure, but a little inanity goes a long way on a hot summer night. You won't find better comedians than Bob Jolly (who places a patter-song like no one on the planet), Karen Woodward (whose legs seem to go in an entirely different direction from the rest of her, so she may be related to Ray Bolger), Monica Tosches (the Queen of deadpan), Neil Casey (who apparently can't sit down in any play), and Steve Rotolo (whose retching is riotous, believe it or not).
If you love bad puns (and no one loved them better than the Bard) then this is the show for you. There's an Othello rap song, a Julia Child human stew, and who wouldn't love a show which raps Professor Rowse's nasty knuckles and tries to restore Edward DeVere to his rightful place in history, and has a Hamlet in reverse. As they say in Hamlet "A hit, a palpable hit!" Kudos to director Timothy James Kelly, to Brent Wachtler for the Monty Python-ish foot, or Gail Astrid Buckley for her zany costumes and to Yael Lubetzky for illumination, without which we'd all be in the dark.