BWW Reviews: Intelligent Laughter at Hub Theatre's COMPLETE WORKS OF SHAKESPEARE [ABRIDGED]
It is no secret by this point that the accessibility of theatre is an issue near and dear to my heart. In Boston especially, where theatre space is limited and the amount of college students is high, it seems to always be a matter of discussion, a constant search for solutions. Last night, I had an experience that impressed me, mostly because the company in question took advantage of two different methods of theatrical accessibility. The Hub Theatre Company, a new company just starting their second season, is dedicated to developing Boston-area audience members by offering performances entirely at a pay-what-you-can rate. Every single show they produce is run on donations, so that money will not be the restriction as to why one cannot see theatre. In addition to catering to people of all financial means, Hub utilized a fairly new and inventive space for their production: the back room of Club Cafe, a popular restaurant and club in Back Bay. It is a small space, with a meager stage and smattering of cafe tables, plus a fully stocked bar that is open to audiences before the show and during intermission, making for a rather intimate and overall social experience. It seems that as of late, available performance space is dwindling, and the Hub's (and other companies) creative use of this space was very exciting to me. From the moment I walked in the door, I was delighted by this company's initiatives.
And then the production began. Currently, Hub is presenting The Complete Works of Shakespeare [Abridged], a hilarious, highly physical, wacky portrayal of all of the Bard's plays originally conceived by Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Winfield. This piece is laugh out loud hilarious, as three male actors take on every role Bill ever wrote, be it in the form of a condensed speed through combining both Shakespearean language and pop culture references (Romeo and Juliet), a goofy cooking show (Titus Andronicus), a high energy sportscast (all of the histories in one), or a Fresh Prince of Bel-Air style, slightly offensive but mostly amazing rap (Othello). Every moment contained a new joke, a new bit, or an improved moment, all of which were incredibly smart. There was also a great deal of audience participation of which, in usual circumstances, I am not a fan, but in such an immersive, buddy-buddy atmosphere, I felt it was almost called for.
The concept of this piece is inherently funny, but without an all-star cast of three highly comedic, knowledgeable, energetic actors, it couldn't be done. These are some funny gentlemen: Patrick Curran, a burly and wildly intelligent actor who used deprecation of both himself and those around him to command the room and laughter from it; William J. Moore, an adorable teddy bear of a man who was roped into playing most of the female roles and brought the house down with his impressive beard and flowing wig combos; and Brooks Reeves, a highly excitable, scholarly and funny performer whose Scottish accent was arguably better than his American. All three had the necessary and yet rare ability to expertly read the audience and each other, and adapt. These were actors who thought and performed on their toes the entire ninety minutes.
These gentlemen carried the show, but they could not have done what obviously was brilliant choreography and intricate planning without Director Lauren Elias. The action was so impossibly fast that I imagine every moment had to have been preplanned and constantly rehearsed. This show took work. It also seems like a wildly difficult production to run, as every prop, costume piece, and cue must be specifically placed and called. The show was stage managed by Kelly Smith and assisted by Michelle Rizza. Finally, while all of the design elements contributed to the piece's overall jovial feel, I was most delighted by the prop design by Marc Ewart. There were an unbelievable amount of props, many of which were both very intricate and only onstage for about twelve seconds (including, for example, a pie with a face and a small flying ghost). To create a show like this, you must have a very strong, cohesive team, which Hub Theatre Company obviously was able to pull together for this production.
This was an incredibly funny and incredibly intelligent show, and I enjoyed every joke. That being said, I also went to theatre school. With a production as academically based as this one, it pays to have a knowledge of the material being presented. I only recently saw Titus Andronicus for the first time and enjoyed the section on it tenfold in this piece because I understood why the jokes were being made. The couple sitting behind me obviously had very little experience with Shakespeare as they spent the first act asking one another (in full voice, no less), "Wait, is he the girl now?" or "Which one is her father?" or "No, no, he was the one who killed the guy, right?". And as they didn't return after intermission, and I began to unclench my frustrated fists, I started to think about how different the show would be for me if I hadn't had so much experience with Shakespeare. It would still be funny; there's no doubt in my mind about that, but would it still have as much of the magic? I would recommend this show to anyone, as the performances, effects, and comedic bits are on point, but if you have a love for the literary or some experience with world drama classes, you might just love it a little bit more.
Written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Winfield; Directed by Lauren Elias; Stage Managed by Kelly Smith; Assistant Stage Managed by Michelle Rizza; Prop Design by Marc Ewart; Lighting Design by Michael Clark Wonson; Costume Design by Lee Viliesis; Sound Design by Andrew Paul Jackson; Mural Design by George Courage; Sound Board Operated by Geoffrey Hoyt; Poster Design by Cristhian Mancinas Garcia.
Featuring Patrick Curran, Adam Lauver (week 1), William J. Moore (weeks 2 and 3), and Brooks Reeves.