Sunday, Dec. 6, 2009

Small Shakespeare In A Small Place

Soulstice Theatre’s Complete Works Of William Shakespeare

By Russ Bickerstaff
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Soulstice Theatre’s  The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)  is fun. It may not be perfect. They kind of drop the ball on the physical comedy of Shakespeare’s histories presented as a football game. The Othello rap is a bit more wince-inducing than one might hope for. With a show as fast-paced as The Complete Works, individual moments get washed-out in the rhythm of an exceedingly fun comedy with a pretty good ensemble.

The space Soulstice is uisng in the 4th floor studio theatre is small enough to make any comedy work just a little bit better than it might in a larger space. Being that much closer to the actors in any comedy really amplifies things—the ensemble has the opportunity to work with a degree of subtlety that doesn’t work in bigger spaces. It also provides for an interesting audience dynamic. At last night’s performance of Soulstice Theatre’s The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged.) On the way in, I noticed local actress Liz Mistele was there. (Didn’t say hi. Only met her once. Not sure what the right etiquette is in situations like that.)

The end of the show features kind of an extended abbreviation of Hamlet—possibly one of the most acclaimed plays in the English language. I’ve seen a number of productions of Hamlet over the years . . . some with professional equity actors. Mistele was the single best Ophelia I’ve ever seen. There’s a point in the show where the cast of The Complete Works chooses a woman from the audience to play Ophelia for a single moment . . . a single scream. And I don’t know if the cast knew Mistele had played her before, but it would have been funny if they’d chosen her knowing that she’d done this phenomenal performance in the role before.

The woman from the audience is onstage and the cast is trying to engage the audience in giving the woman chosen to play Ophelia the right crowd-induced inspiration to scream in character. I’m a bit distracted remembering Mistele’s performance in the role . . . and I get singled out because I’m not waving my arms fiercely enough to induce a reaction. The cast’s Kelly Simon comically chastises mefor not doing a good enough job. And somewhere behind me, I hear Mistele laughing. It was kind of a weird moment. And a very fun show.

Soulstice’s The Complete Works of William Shakespeare runs through December 19th. A comprehensive review of the show runs in this week’s Shepherd-Express.

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