The Reduced Shakespeare Company took London by storm with their hilarious The Complete Works Of William Shakespeare. The show has come, at long last, to Colgate University, and the resulting hi-jinks are remarkable and sidesplitting. Sophomores Jacey Heldrich and Anne Slotnick directed a version of the show at Colgate, a must-see for anyone who wants to gain access to the world of Shakespeare, see fine acting and theater as it should be, or maybe just wants to laugh until it hurts.
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare is for both the theatre buff and the novice; it is a show of unparalleled proficiency. The opening lines of the play indicate the accomplishment for which it strives: to capture in a single, theatrical piece the absolute grandeur which is the complete works of William Shakespeare. All 37 of his plays are performed in under 97 minutes. Not to worry if you’re not a classical fan. Shakespeare has been spruced up and whittled down, and he has exploded onto the stage, courtesy of The Reduced Shakespeare Company. This is Shakespeare like you’ve never seen him before.
Perhaps the most interesting feature of this theatrical production is that it is a play within a play, much like many of Shakespeare’s pieces. There are only three actors, senior Nick Gillette and juniors Kyle Levenick and Ben Smith, who have the challenge of revealing all 37 plays. Not only do these actors play a myriad of Shakespearian characters, but they also introduce the various segments of the production and explain the process of transforming the Shakespearean plots into contemporary ones.
The play captivates the audience immediately. It combines elements of an evangelical commercial,rap video, improv comedy performance, Shakespearean comedy and sporting events. The actors’ apparel ranges from brightly colored spandex and knee-high briefs to converse sneakers, representing a new kind of Shakespearian player.
According to Heldrich and Slotnik, the students involved in this production have been planning the show since last spring.
“We’ve known since the first rehearsal,” Heldrich said, “that it was going to work, and it was going to be incredible.”
And indeed, their hard work seems to have paid off.
“The best part about this play,” Slotnick said, “is that you get to see Shakespeare in a whole new light, to make it funny where you didn’t think it would be. We’re just lucky we had such hilarious guys acting; they’ve taken the humor of the show to a whole new level.”
Each actor brings his own style to the show. Smith, a newcomer to the stage,plays the nervous, somewhat loosescrew of the troupe, forced to don many different women’s wigs and speak in falsetto. When accompanied by a smile from Smith, even death becomes something to laugh about. Levenick’s character holds the troupe together, and his most notable performance is his portrayal of Hamlet as he holds the skull of his old jester.
Gillette controls the stage by jumping from playing Romeo to playing a nurse with a huge bosom. With each new Shakespearian character he becomes, we can see the enormous theatrical breadth of Gillette’s talent as an actor, watching his persona morph drastically from one minute to the next with superb comic timing.
“We added our own style of humor to our characters,” Levenick said.
In this play, even the dark and brooding tragedy of Othello becomes hilarious.Men in wigs race across the stage while duels are fought and triumphs won. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare will be performed in Ryan 212 tonight at 8 p.m., and tomorrow at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. It will be a night of unforgettable theater.