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The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) 

Stinson Beach's season opener is a hilarious sendup of the Bard's plays -- all compressed into two hours

Wednesday, Jun 5 2002
Shakespeare at Stinson Beach's season opener, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), compresses all of ol' Willie's theatrical endeavors into a two-hour mishmash of clowning and slapstick comedy. Written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Winfield, the production involves a cast of three relentless hams garbed in tights and Converse high-tops who take us on a ridiculous journey through Bardland. Together they convert Titus Andronicus into a 10-minute cooking show, Othello into a white-boy rap song, and King Lear into a juicy football game. In contrast to contemporary society's scholarly approach to Shakespeare, The Complete Works is anything but highbrow; in fact, it's low humor of a funny but almost childish sort, relying not on a prior familiarity with the Bard's industrious canon -- as one might expect -- but rather on silly costumes, obvious jokes, and a mega-dose of audience participation. (The 10-year-olds in the front row absolutely loved the show, and I'd wager a pound of flesh none of them is studying Richard III in elementary school.) The first act covers a great deal of territory, including an unusual version of Macbeth, performed with authentic Scottish accents, and a condensation of all the comedies into one piece titled The Love Boat Goes to Verona. Hamlet is the main focus of the second act, and it is presented in several versions, each one shorter than the last, until finally the entire play is performed in less than 30 seconds -- and backward. Hamlet's play-within-a-play scenario, while ever so brief, is the highlight of the evening, containing a perverse and well-executed sock puppet show. Though the script offers some humorous insights (such as referring to Shakespeare as a "formula writer" and comparing his repetition of plot lines to Hollywood's modern-day equivalent, the "sequel"), it's mainly a goofy gagfest that pokes fun of our centuries-old obsession with producing, reviving, and often destroying Shakes' impressive collection of plays. The proceedings are enjoyable, but one thing's for sure: It ain't no Shakespeare.

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Karen Macklin


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