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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Fast Lesson in Shakespeare

SummerStage abridges the Bard

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“The play’s the thing,” says Hamlet. In the case of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), “play” becomes “plays” as the SummerStage troupe in Delafield attempts to perform the Bard’s 15 comedies, 10 histories and 12 tragedies—all in 97 minutes (there’s a separate 15-minute intermission).

Watching the play in the park at night adds to the fun of the slapstick parody, which features three actors—Jared Kuehn, Robert Trader and Zach Thomas Woods—performing multiple roles as they literally race through many of the lesser performed classics to focus on the better known Romeo and Juliet (clocking in at a “lengthy” 12 minutes) or the most famous, Hamlet (which takes up most of the second act).

In addition, the players are given a wide berth in improvisation and modern-day pop culture references (everyone from Oprah to Steve Jobs). Question: Does director Dustin J. Martin let the boys run wild with the side jokes and sophomoric pranks so much that we forget it’s Shakespeare, and begin to think of National Lampoon’s Animal House (an indirect homage to the 35th anniversary of the film?)?

Me thinks not. The three young, energetic actors pour heart and soul into this production and it pays off for them, at times, in very funny bits given their youthful vigor and insight. The tale of Othello is well done via rap speak-song (budding second career here, guys) and the trio score big time with the telling of some of the histories via an American football game. Woods, in particular, stands out in this show given his enormous diversity of role playing—from a serious Hamlet to a very funny Juliet.

Yes, summer’s finally here fellow Wisconsinites, with outdoor Shakespeare.  And did I mention to bring plenty of bug spray?  

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) runs through Aug. 3 at SummerStage in Lapham Peak State Park, Delafield. For more information, visit summer-stage.org or call 262-337-1560.

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