Playhouse 1960 Turns the Bard Into Cliff Notes with The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged (The Ladies)
A REVIEW BY H.G.WELCH
One of the most common treatments of phobias is immersion therapy, where you are forced to face your darkest fears. If your greatest fear is Shakespeare, then The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged (The Ladies) presented by Playhouse 1960 will certainly get you over your phobia. The play every single one of Shakespeare's plays in the space of an hour and a half, in sketch format. It is bawdy, anarchistic and very much audience participation. The audience part is its greatest strength, and it's greatest weakness.
The entirety of the eleven hundred plus characters of Shakespeare is reduced greatly and played with fervor by Helen Rios, Melissa Huckabay and Kacie Adams. They put on a manic performance, switching characters, voice and costumes at a fevered pace as the play dictates. Adams' biography of Shakespeare was gloriously insane as she somehow manages to give us a reading of Mein Kampf with Shakespeare standing in for Hitler. The play travels at a breakneck pace, line flubs and wardrobe malfunctions are part of the humor as it doesn't give the ladies often near enough time to get ready for their next role. They are required to be quick change artists, and if something happens to fall off they just work through it.
The plays are comprised as sketches, with the more popular plays getting the lion's share of the time. Hamlet takes up the entirety of the second act, with Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Titus Andronicus, Julius Caesar, Anthony and Cleopatra and Macbeth getting their own sketches as well. The rest of the plays are rolled up into montage gags that do require at least a little bit of knowledge of Shakespeare's works to fully understand. As sketches they tend to be hit and miss. Hamlet is a bit overlong, while Othello was rather funny in its anachronistic glory and Macbeth giving everyone a chance to practice their worst Scottish accents.
Hamlet gets the majority of the performance as the audience is fully brought into the play to help explain Ophelia's motivations. It also gives us possibly the worst Danish accents in the history of forever. That's where the play runs into trouble, as it needs a larger audience for the humor to work. The actors have to play off the audience for the scene, and a small house doesn't do the play justice. I would like to see it play to a full house to capture the full lunacy the writers envisioned.
The Complete Works of Shakespeare Abridged (The Ladies) is running until May 13th at Playhouse 1960 at 6814 Gant Road. There is an all male cast starting on May 19th that will be reviewed separately. Brush up on your Shakespeare ahead of time, and be prepared to be drawn into the performance.