Tragedies worth a laugh in ‘Wllm Shkspr’

Patricia Harrelson /

If you are into a full-throttle, no-holds-barred laughing good time, Murphys Creek Theatre has just the thing for you: "The Complete Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged)[Revised]." This classical parody penned and performed in the late 1980s by three actors from the Reduced Shakespeare Company is now playing at the Cornelia B. Stevenot Amphitheater in Murphys.

Director Graham Scott Green has generated a superb production of side-splitting hilarity and genuine smarts with three actors - Mike Evans, Anthony DePage, and Sean M. Lewis - each of whom is a master of words and stellar comedic timing.

The play opens with Evans coming on stage to offer what appears to be the usual opening remarks of welcome and thanks but segues seamlessly into the performance. Straddling the line of dry humor and crackling wit, Evans gets things rolling with his introduction of Anthony DePage as a pre-eminent Shakespearean scholar.

DePage is prickly with mock gravitas. His high-strung character is quickly undone when up pops the lovable Lewis from amidst the audience, correcting DePage's pseudo-scholarship with his own sketchy Wikipedia information.

From there Lewis gallops on stage to further the folly by rendering a biography of Shakespeare read from his smart phone that somehow gets mixed up with a Hitler biography.

The trio is off to a fast and furious pace creating raucous, zany chaos with the bard's work. The entire opening gives the impression that the actors are winging it.

And there is certainly a considerable amount of improvisation as the actors bulldoze the fourth wall talking to and engaging with the audience. (Introverts beware: you are likely to have your personal space invaded, especially if you are sitting in the front row.)

The [Revised] part of the title refers to how dated references in the script have been replaced with mentions of Googling and Ipads and local and timely references, like raffle tickets on sale and the location of the facilities.

All this in the opening before the "literary jihad" truly even gets underway, starting with "Romeo and Juliet," during which Lewis first cross-dresses before mounting Evans as an improvised balcony in a bit of homoerotic allusion.

(Did I mention that enough raunchiness pervades the show to warrant parental discretion?)

"Titus Andronicus" follows, re-imagined as a bloody cooking show. "Othello" is performed as a drop-dead hilarious rap song about African-Italians (as opposed to African-Americans).

Then all the comedies are thrown together as an absurd and bewildering tale about siblings separated at birth, men mistaken for women, and women mistaken for men washing up on foreign shores, reminding the audience of just how many elements the comedies actually share.

The Histories are smooshed into a football game scenario, and there are a lot of poisonous deaths to be had.

Laura Dyken and Ashleigh Zakharin have dressed the boys in poofy or suspendered pantaloons and black Convers, and have added in an assembly of quick change accoutrements - wigs, dresses, capes, helmets - donned at break-neck speeds, especially in Act II which is dedicated to a reinterpretation of "Hamlet."

The second-act audience participation segment, which is meant to encourage Ophelia to take control of her predicament, is both ludicrous and completely in keeping with the nonsensical direction we've been convinced to follow. So why not join in?

Clever truncation and a madcap trio of players makes the "Complete Wrks" a seriously funny excursion. Murphys Creek Theater has concocted a nifty summer treat: the forest is bellowing with laughter on a velvety night.

"The Complete Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged) [Revised]" plays through Sept. 1. For tickets, call 728-8422 or go online to www.murphyscreektheater.org.

11905160
The Union Democrat
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