"The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged)" would be a much better show if it weren't quite so comprehensive.
All the funniest material in the comedy is packed into the first act. By the second half, which is devoted solely to "Hamlet," the show drags until it outstays its welcome.
None of this is the fault of director/actor Rick Jones or the other two performers — Kiegan Alvey and Megan Lynch — involved in Prospect Theater Project's season-finale production.
All three clown around as hard as they can and exhibit more energy than 20 cheerleaders in the last seconds of a tight football game.
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Created by the Reduced Shakespeare Company, "Complete Works" is a series of short sketches interspersed with lots of physical comedy and low-brow jokes. Jones added references to Paris Hilton, Harry Potter and Wikipedia.
The performers zoom through 36 of the Bard's 37 plays in the first half, compressing all the comedies into one zany show and spending more time with the tragedies.
The gory "Titus Andronicus," which includes cannibalism, is played as a cooking show. "Romeo and Juliet" gets a gender twist with Jones dressing as hapless Juliet and Lynch playing her beloved. A running joke has Jones playing all the Bard's heroines and making them all suffer from uncontrollable nausea.
I laughed the hardest at the rap version of "Othello" featuring the performers in football jerseys, sunglasses and gold chains, and the ultra-Scottish "Macbeth." For the latter, the actors wear plaid kilts and spend a long time rolling their r's.
But I got tired of the constant calls for audience participation. Throughout the show, the actors talk to the crowd, wander through the seats and comment on individual audience members.
It's the worst in the second half when the audience is divided into groups and required to either wave their hands, shout out a line of dialogue, scream or run around the stage to show Ophelia's mental state in "Hamlet." Personally, I don't feel like working that hard when I attend a play.
While the comic take on "Hamlet" has some funny moments, sections fall short, like the whiny version of "To Be or Not To Be." The extended skit doesn't get any better when the cast repeats it a second time at double-speed.
However, the wacky costumes work well and the simple set fits the makeshift tone of the production. Inspired by outdoor summer Shakespeare stagings, Alvey and Jones designed a small pavilion and painted the walls to look like the sky.
The show would be more effective if cut to 30 minutes of its best material and presented as opening act for something more substantial. But even in its present state, it at least provides a change of pace from Prospect's usual fare of dark, serious theater.
Bee arts writer Lisa Millegan can be reached at 578-2313 firstname.lastname@example.org.