The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), directed by Aaron Shenkman and starring David Etherington, Meg Shields and Rebecca Singbeil as The Associated Shakespeare Society (or ASS), is not a show for the faint of heart. The play starts off at breakneck speed and barely slows down during the entire almost two hour show. The show is heavy on audience interaction and be warned, avoiding the front row definitely will not spare you (nor will escaping to the Wardroom at intermission).
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Tasked with presenting every one of Shakespeare’s 37 plays, the cast begins the show with a summary of Romeo and Juliet that at least tries to remain true to the text, with a few amendments by Shields.. Don’t expect the show to continue in that vein. After the star-crossed lovers, the ASS gets a lot more creative in their presentations of the Bard’s work. Purists beware: this is Shakespeare as you’ve never seen him before. From a cooking show to Love Boat Goes to Verona, the interpretations of these iconic plays are both hilarious and clever.
While the play will still be funny for audience members who isn’t well acquainted with Shakespeare’s work, there are certainly jokes that will go right over their heads. Though this is inevitable due to the nature of the show, it is not helped by incredibly fast line delivery. The Complete Works begs to be done at a sprint, and it works very well in Shenkman’s production most of the time, but it seems as though they didn’t quite master the balance of high and clear line delivery.. It must of course be noted at this point that the season was only announced by the KTS Feb. 5 and that the production has therefore has gone up both alarmingly and impressively quickly.
Regardless of the occasional unclear line, the play is incredibly funny, riddled with King’s inside jokes and delightfully vulgar humour that is true to the nature of Shakespearean comedy. Etherington, Shields and Singbeil are all superbly cast and each injects their own brand of humour into their roles. They work very well as an ensemble, as is evidenced by choral work done in perfect unison.
The acting is accompanied by somewhat campy makeup by Amanda Shore (it works, Etherington looks especially pretty), a simplistic and versatile set and spot-on lighting.
The final show of the KTS’s second season is a don’t-miss, if only to bring some much needed comic relief to March, as well as a year of theatre that, while excellent, has definitely been dark.
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) continues its run through Sat., March 23 with evening shows at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and a matinee at 2 p.m. on Sunday. All performances are in the Pit.