“The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” debuts tonight at the Powerhouse and promises to be a show unlike any other.
The play attempts to tell the stories of all of William Shakespeare’s plays in a condensed and comedic form, using only three actors. The play was originally written and performed by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield, members of the Reduced Shakespeare Company, in 1987. The actors go by their own names, rather than playing traditional characters, and there is virtually no fourth wall in this play, meaning the actors on stage frequently address the audience directly. There are even a few moments that include audience participation.
This performance stars Mary Kate Halpin, Faith Janicki and Jacob Hall as the three actors, and Matt Gieseke as the “props master,” who also makes frequent appearances on stage. The show is directed by Kate Lechler, visiting instructor in English at Ole Miss, with Wil Oakes as the assistant director.
Though she has directed multiple plays in the past, this performance marks Lechler’s directorial debut in Oxford.
“I’ve done this play before, both as an actor and a director. It’s a very fun show,” she said. “It’s also a play that will make money that can be recycled back into other productions that might be a bit more expensive to perform.”
Even if one has seen this play performed before, every performance is different. The show lends itself very well to improvisation, and the cast has clearly updated a lot of the jokes and references to be more modern. The inclusion of Gieseke as the fourth member of the cast also adds another layer to this particular production that is not always present. The four cast members have great on-stage chemistry and the energy needed to carry this 90-minute play.
The play is drawing attention from students at Ole Miss, many of whom already intend to see the performance.
“I’ve always wanted to see this play,” said junior English major Victoria Mulqueen. “I’m a big fan of [William Shakespeare’s] works. They’re classic, but plays are meant to be formed, not read. I want to see the plays, even the ones that I’m not familiar with, in a condensed, comedic form on a stage.”
Even though “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” does perform a condensed version of Shakespeare’s plays, no prior knowledge of Shakespeare’s work is required to enjoy it. If the audience knows the plays, they will certainly catch references that might be missed otherwise, but the play still has comedic value regardless. This play does a great job of condensing some of Shakespeare’s lesser-known works into an understandable format, while also taking time to dive a little deeper into the more well-known plays, such as “Romeo and Juliet,” “Macbeth” and particularly “Hamlet.”
“The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” opens at 7 p.m. tonight. The play will continue to run into the weekend with shows on Friday and Saturday also at 7 p.m, and a matinee showing at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are available online until 5 p.m. Thursday at oxfordarts.com, but tickets will also be sold at the door. Tickets are $10 for Theatre Oxford members, seniors, or students and $15 for non-members.