Cast puts on whirlwind show of playwright’s work
Many a present and former college student has sweated Shakespeare and lived to tell the tale.
But what if all the bard’s plays had been neatly delivered to them in a snappy, hour-and-a-half package with zingy, side-splitting dialogue?
Well, let these young scholars look no more, for Auburn Regional Theater’s comedic presentation of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)” is what they have been looking for.
Well, sort of. Just don’t expect a literal reading of Shakespeare’s works.
Three actors, Don Pitsch, Lou Olson and Nathan Rice take on the exhausting task of performing all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays and 154 sonnets in two hours, employing hip hop, swordplay and even football in a frantic mix of humor that calls on everything from ridiculous sight gags to word play and pratfalls.
In this whirlwind, frantic roller-coaster ride of a comedy, rapid costume changes turn a sword-wielding Benvolio from Romeo and Juliet into a bewigged and hairy Juliet romancing her Romeo. Here, Hamlet’s mother Gertrude becomes the fair Ophelia before you can say “Timon of Athens.”
“It’s basically three guys doing all of Shakespeare’s plays in 97 minutes, so it’s very silly, very madcap, very hilarious,” said Jackie Edwards, founder with husband Phil Edwards of Auburn Regional Theater. “There are real Shakespeare lines in there, but it’s a comedy. It’s not like anything I can describe. It’s irreverent fun.”
In Adam Long’s, Daniel Singer’s and Jess Winfield’s 1987 interpretation, 16 comedies become one, featuring a shipwreck, a duke and his three sets of identical twins. And the tragedies morph into the Shakespeare Football League, “Who’s got the crown,” Othello is done in hip hop and Hamlet is performed not only forward but backward.
In this world, the blood and gore of a Titus Andronicus, with its infamous whacked-off tongue scene, becomes a cooking show.
“For the most part, we touch on anything that we find entertaining in each plot,” said Pitsch, who is the play’s director. “So there’s stuff that’s of course obviously overlooked. Titus Andronicus is presented as a cooking show, and we pretty much sum up the plot within its little shell and transpose it into a modern setting.”
Even the hidden hilarity of a stage direction like “exeunt omnes,” (exit all) becomes grist for the comic mill.
“The concept with the show is to bring the fun and genius of Shakespeare to those who don’t normally go after it. If you are a genius, you often lose a lot of the fun in the script,” Pitsch said.
Some of the material might not be suitable for children.
Phil and Jackie Edwards are producing the play.
Performances are at 8 p.m., Friday and 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Saturday. The shows continue at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays on June 13-14, 20-21,
27-28, and 2 p.m. Sunday, June 15, June 22 and June 29.
For ticket information, call (253) 929-6680 or go online at www.auburnregionaltheatre.org.