Playhouse 1960 Turns the Bard Into Cliff Notes with The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged (The Guys)
A REVIEW BY H.G.WELCH
So I went back for a second bite at the Shakespeare Abridged apple at the 1960 Playhouse, this time with an all male cast. It's a lot more of the same as the lady's take two weeks ago, with some different takes. This run's cast consists of Nicholas Garelick, Bryan Maynard and Jonathan Moonen. The crowd was a bit larger this time, which helped the play as it is audience participation heavy.
Rather than rehash the play, it's easier note the differences and compare the two. Maynard uses his knack for impersonations to great effect, instead of the Shakespearean expert lamenting about a soup opera with the ladies, this time it's Celebrity Apprentice that gets the attention, all so Maynard can do a rather spot on Arnie impersonation. His Groucho Marx was also drew one of the largest laughs from the audience, even if it was only brief. Moonen got to show off his exasperated look on multiple occasions, drawing his largest laugh as Garelick's reading of Shakespeare's biography goes horrifically off the rails. Garelick got his best reaction from audience lying flat on his back as the dead Juliet while he fought off Moonen's libido driven Romeo from getting one last kiss, with tongue. The ladies did have some of the more poignant dramatic scenes, where the men let loose with absolutely wackiness.
The only issue with the play is the swing in pacing between intermissions. While the play does go for the gross out a little too often with the vomit and fart jokes, it's rapid fire and quickly moved on from. But while the first half is a series of quick sketches, the writers decided to spend the entire second act on Hamlet. Where Romeo and Juliet gets the longest of all the first half sketches at around ten minutes, Hamlets goes on for 45 minutes. It goes from short attention span theatre to one you know have to pay attention to. It merged all the historical and comedies into two quick sketches, but left a lot of material on the floor. A lot could have been done with the St. Crispin's Day speech, Shylock was never mentioned, and well known classics like Taming of the Shrew, the Tempest or Much Ado About Nothing were barely mentioned in passing. It felt like there was just so much material left unmocked so the writers go talk about Hamlet.
Don't get me wrong, you will laugh. It's funny. The men have a great time and are highly entertaining. They draw the entire audience into playing Ophelia's subconscious. They overact with aplomb. Their attempted under reactions to the constant costume failures are hilarious. They do the best with the material at hand, and fill in where they think they can improve upon it.
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged (The Gentlemen) plays at 1960 Playhouse until May 27. Prepare to be drawn into the performance, as there is no fourth wall at all.