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BWW Review: Nu Sass Productions Revives 43 1/2: THE GREATEST DEATHS OF SHAKESPEARE'S TRAGEDIES

43 1/2: THE GREATEST DEATHS OF SHAKESPEARE'S TRAGEDIES, a 2013 Capital Fringe favorite from Nu Sass, is back again with its enthusiastic original cast for a third run. Sun King Davis directs the zany, bloody production, with a new batch of gruesome fight scenes thrown in to keep things fresh.

Besides the added tragic tableaux, this round of 43 1/2 features a bevy of well-placed Trump quotes and more HAMILTON references than even Hamilfans can count (#YayHamlet). The play begins with a dramatic contemporary crime scene straight from CSI (or SNL), with a series of sirens ushering in each member of the cast (lighting design by E-hui Woo). From there, the premise is simple: the five actors will go on to assume multiple roles to reenact as many of the best Shakespeare deaths as possible in one evening - but specifically from the tragedies, to keep the run time reasonable. Gothic horror scenery (Eric McMorris), multipurpose costumes (Jennifer Osborn), and charmingly low-budget props set the stage.

The first act is entertaining enough, with deeply committed performances, including Ricardo Frederick Evans as Othello and Jenna Berk as Hamlet. Some comedic moments land more deftly than others, but invitations for audience interaction and intermission drinking games hosted by the actors make for an immersive experience and get everyone on board for a raucous Act II.

Evans and Berk don sock puppets and British accents as Knobby and Slag, respectively, and their improv is winning as they narrate additional deaths. Other standout performances include Aubri O'Connor as Caesar and Bess Kaye as Cleopatra, but Danny Rovin winds up taking the cake (the pie?) as Titus Andronicus. For the grand finale, the stage becomes a plastic-lined kill room fit for "Dexter" and set for some serious blood spatter. Fortunately there's fair pre-show warning for the audience members seated in the "blood section".

43 1/2 is an unconventional way to celebrate the Bard's many plays and cover tons of dramatic ground - because let's face it, the deaths are the best part.

Running time: approximately 106 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.

Nu Sass Productions presents 43 1/2: THE GREATEST DEATHS OF SHAKESPEARE'S TRAGEDIES through November 13th, 2016, at the Trinidad Theatre at the Logan Fringe Arts Space, 1358 Florida Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002. Tickets can be purchased at capitalfringe.org or by calling (866) 811-4111.

Photo: Nu Sass promotional image.


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