Opening nights are awful. If you're an actor, you're exhausted from night after night of rehearsal, staying late at the theater, waiting while the technical crew and costumers and everyone else get all of the details right. If you're part of the crew, you're frantically trying to finish all the last-minute jobs before they let the audience in. And if you're a reviewer, well, you're aware that the audience is filled with friends and family members of the cast and crew, the actors are exhausted, the tech crew is frantic, everyone is a nervous wreck, and the performance is likely not going to be one of their best.

Post5 Theatre's production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) (Revised) is a follow-up to last year's hilarious outdoor verison. This year's show has a different cast and director, and throws some more current references into the mix. Yes, there are jokes about the Kardashians and Oregon's new marriage laws among the more scholarly references, but the comedy is (mostly) timeless and (almost completely) successful.

The show gets off to a slow start - about which more anon - but once the actors start doing their version of Romeo and Juliet the adrenaline kicks in, and all three performers are willing to do just about anything for a laugh. Alex Klein starts off as the sanest of the three, but that image gets shattered once he plays the lead in Titus Andronicus, which is staged as a cooking show. He also makes a truly wacky Hamlet. Ty Boice, who gave his own version of Hamlet recently, here gets to play most of the female roles, and shines as Juliet, Ophelia, and just about anything else he puts his mind (and body) to.

But the star of the night is Chip Sherman, who has such a variety of voices and moves at his command that it's hard to believe all those parts are being played by the same person. He switches characters so quickly that you can almost get whiplash. Even during the lesser comic moments - the opening, for instance, or the truly lame audience participation section during the Hamlet parody - Sherman is always doing his best to keep the show moving and the audience entertained.

Speaking of the audience, the crowd at Saturday night's opening performance was one of the loudest and rowdiest I've ever seen. As stated above, I'm not a fan of opening nights, and half the crowd seemed to be on a first-name basis with the cast. They even sang "Happy Birthday" to Mr. Sherman, who seemed genuinely surprised. But this rowdiness made it hard to hear the jokes from time to time.

Director Cassandra Boice has given the actors free rein to get as crazy as possible. The best function of a director on a show like this is as an editor, telling the cast which bits work, which ones don't, and how long to keep the schtick going, and Boice has done a fine job here. Likewise, Randall Ty Pike, who serves as set designer, lighting designer, stage manager, and tech crew (whew!), gets dragged into the action a few times, and proves to be just as nimble as the three leads.

One caveat. As noted before, the piece has a slow opening, as the three actors gradually enter and present themselves to the audience. Sherman, Klein, and Boice did their best to animate it, but it really didn't go anywhere until they dumped the lame opening script and started performing the Bard. What really made the show hard to enjoy at the beginning was Post5's decision to give some stand-up comics an opportunity to entertain the audience before the show. Audiences don't really want entertainment before the performance; they want to sit and chat and visit, or read the program, or just take a look around and people watch. And the three comedians chosen for the task at the performance I viewed were truly terrible. I don't claim to be an expert, but I've heard funnier jokes at the DMV - and enjoyed myself more.

Don't get there early, but don't miss The Complete Works. It's perfectly hilarious, or hilariously perfect, or just plain fun.

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From This Author Patrick Brassell

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