BWW Reviews: Monty Python Meets the Bard - This Is Not Your Grandmother's Shakespeare!
The three comics who were inspired to condense all of Shakespeare's 37 plays into 97 minutes - and then went ahead and did it - had no idea where that whacky idea would lead. First performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1987, THE COMPLETE WORKS OF William Shakespeare (ABRIDGED) by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield, went on to become a runaway success, playing at the Criterion Theatre in London for over ten years. It has since been translated into dozens of different languages and has become a world-wide theatrical phenomenon. Whether you love Shakespeare, hate him or are completely indifferent, do yourself a favor and head over to Albuquerque Little Theatre, for an evening of guaranteed hilarity.
The cast consists of only three actors, Scott Bryan, Ryan Jason Cook and Daniel T. Cornish, all of whom are hugely talented and very funny. They use their real names and, with the help of a bit of cross-dressing, play all the characters as themselves. They also engage in spontaneous conversation with each other, making references to current popular culture and also using local references, which is why the program states that the time is 'now' and the place is 'here.' And, since there is no fourth wall, the audience is drawn into the conversation as well and, in the second act, even becomes part of the action.
After introducing themselves, the actors begin with a fast-paced and at times, bawdy, parody of Romeo and Juliet, quickly followed by Titus Andronicus, which is irreverently presented as a blood-soaked cooking show. Then comes Othello, hilariously interpreted as a rap song and, due to time limitations and plot similarities, all the comedies are rolled into one, combined story. The histories, put together in the form of a football game, with the British crown as the football, are particularly funny, while Macbeth, being much better known, gets its own minimalist treatment, focusing on the characters and scenes most appropriate for parody.
The action is fast and furious all the way through and the actors never miss a beat. They are also clearly enjoying themselves enormously and the combination of high voltage energy, bawdiness, cleverness and irreverent silliness is irresistible. The absence of a fourth wall gives the show, at times, the feeling of a pantomime, especially during the second act, which is devoted entirely to Hamlet. An unsuspecting member of the audience is brought up on stage to play Ophelia and everyone else is instructed to join in as her subconscious - ego, super ego and id. The actors then do a replay, several times over, increasing the speed of delivery every time and finishing up by performing it backwards.
The final result is a theatrical experience unlike any other, which can probably best be described as Shakespeare of the Absurd. The show runs through September 15th and is definitely not to be missed. Whether the Bard himself would be amused is, of course, another matter entirely. . .
For more info: www.albuquerquelittletheatre.org
Photo courtesy of Albuquerque Little Theatre