Shakespeare & Company: 'The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)' -- A jaunt through the Bard's canon
LENOX -- Take the title of Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield's theatrical bauble -- "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged" -- literally.
This vaudeville runs through all 37 plays in the canon in two hours or so -- plus intermission -- with a liberal dose of "Romeo and Juliet" to start things off and an interminable take on "Hamlet" -- complete with three, yes, three, quick-speed versions after it's all over, one of them backwards -- sucking up the oxygen in the second half.
"Complete Works ..." is being performed on the Tina Packer Playhouse stage in rotating repertory with "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "King Henry IV, Parts I & II," which begins previews Friday.
Virtually nothing in this competently acted, ho-hum, workmanlike effort is to be taken seriously, although it says a lot that "Complete Works' " cleverest moments are in the act-opening narratives that set the stage for what is to come.
Within this whimsically written, self-consciously performed circus, the history plays are offered collectively as grand sporting event a la "The NFL Today;" the Bard's grim, cannibalistic "Titus Andronicus" surfaces as a television cooking show; "Othello" is a rap opera; and "Macbeth" -- er, that is, "The Scottish Play" -- is performed in thick Scottish accents as an object lesson in the perils of breaking theatrical superstitions surrounding the utterance of the play's title within any theater in which it is playing.
Director Jonathan Croy's staging makes effective, often inventive use of the Packer Playhouse's stage traps, providing some options that don't exist in the smaller, more intimate Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre at the opposite end of the Shakespeare & Company campus.
Josh Aaron McCabe's Ophelia as a Valley Girl on speed is one of the show's antic highlights. Ryan Winkles serves up a daffily flighty Juliet and among Charls Sedgwick Hal's accomplishments is his appropriately melancholy Melancholy Dane -- Hamlet.
Would that this production on the whole were as light as the air Winkles' Juliet traipses on. The effort too often shows. These actors all are capable of doing more with less.
Still, "Complete Works ..." is good for a few honestly earned laughs here and there.
THE COMPLETE WORKS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (ABRIDGED) By Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield. Directed by Jonathan Croy; costume designer, Govane Lohbauer; scenic designer, Patrick Brennan and Jonathan Croy; lighting designer, Matthew E. Adelson. In rotating repertory through Aug. 24. Selected afternoons and evenings. Shakespeare & Company, Tina Packer Playhouse, 70 Kemble St., Lenox. Tickets: $15-$80. (413) 637-3353; shakespeare.org. 2 hours 19 minutes
Charls Sedgwick Hall
Josh Aaron McCabe
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