BWW Review: THE COMPLETE WORKS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (ABRIDGED) at Playhouse On Park
Very few people can claim to have seen all 37 of William Shakespeare's plays in their entirety. It would probably take a lifetime to do this, not to mention the fact that some of the more obscure plays are rarely performed. However, if someone wanted to get a flavor for the Bard's entire body of work, presented in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, they need not go any further than Playhouse on Park in West Hartford to catch the final production of their current season - THE COMPLETE WORKS OF William Shakespeare (ABRIDGED.)
THE COMPLETE WORKS OF William Shakespeare (ABRIDGED) by Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Winfield is a madcap romp through each of Shakespeare's plays. Three actors (Hanna Cheek, Rich Hollman, and Sean Harris) introduce the audience to a bit of history about Shakespeare's life and then jump right into a non-stop and hilarious series of vignettes and scenes that capture Shakespeare's most iconic (and lesser known pieces.) The text presented is a mix of original script interspersed with current political and cultural references, and, as is stated in the director's notes, "even some Shakespeare." Taking prominence are the plays you would expect - ROMEO AND JULIET, MACBETH, and HAMLET (in a tour-de-force, high energy final act complete with found props and frenetic action) but each of Shakespeare's works gets mentioned in some way. The actors make it through all 37 plays (with some creative inclusion) in 97 minutes and even have time for a very unique and hilarious encore during the bows.
The three actors pulling off this impressive feat are quite talented (and very funny). Hanna Cheek provides much of the narration (and is funny as a deadpan Romeo among her many other characters.) Rich Hollman has the most memorable moments of the evening - his Juliet and Ophelia are particularly hilarious. Finally, Playhouse on Park Co-Artistic director takes the stage for a change and rounds out the cast as the more serious and put-upon of the three performers. His Hamlet, though presented in a comical fashion, is quite passionate and strong and is a highlight of the evening.
The staging for COMPLETE WORKS is as simple as it gets. A bare stage with a curtain and a wide variety of props, wigs, and costumes. Tom Ridgely's direction is nimble, but frenetic. Emily Nichols' scenic design is simple, with a bit of flair, and Kate Bunce and Pamela Lang's costumes and props (respectively) help bring these classic plays to life in the most creative (and hilarious) ways.
Overall, Playhouse on Park's THE COMPLETE WORKS OF William Shakespeare (ABRIDGED) is light, funny and entertaining on many levels. The audience was quite entertained and even participated in the action. Some familiarity with the plays of William Shakespeare is helpful in order to maximize the enjoyment of the evening, though as they actors state up front, whether you love Shakespeare or hate his plays, there is something for everyone in this production.
THE COMPLETE WORKS OF William Shakespeare (ABRIDGED) runs at Playhouse on Park in West Hartford, CT through July 30th. For more information, call 860-523-5900 ext. 10 or visit www.PlayhouseOnPark.org. Playhouse on Park is located at 244 Park Road, West Hartford, CT 06119
Photo credits: Curt Henderson