“The Complete Works of Shakespeare, Abridged” distills more than 100 hours of the Bard into 100 minutes of slapstick led by an acting trio.
It all opens with a warm-up declaring that William Shakespeare was responsible for the Nazi invasion of Poland. Launching with Romeo and a not-so-feminine Juliet, the actors manage to run through 36 of Shakespeare’s 37 plays before intermission.
The play opens at the Vortex Theatre on Friday, July 12, running on weekends through Aug. 18.
It holds the world record for the shortest-ever “Hamlet” performance, clocking in at 43 seconds, as well as its opposite: the fastest performance of “Hamlet” backwards, at 42 seconds.
In this play of parodies, “Titus Andronicus” transforms into a cooking show for the author’s “Quentin Tarantino phase.” Another actor raps to “Othello.” All of the comedies get combined in one single convoluted reading. The play reduces “Julius Caesar” to his death. “Macbeth” turns into James Bond.
“It’s all 37 plays of Shakespeare performed by three men in an hour-and-a-half show,” director Ryan Jason Cook said.
The actors all quote and misquote Shakespeare at breakneck speed. They wander into the audience and invite its members, however reluctantly, on stage. Someone has to play Ophelia in the nunnery scene.
“It’s designed for an audience who enjoys Shakespeare,” Cook said, “and the person who doesn’t can also enjoy it for the laughter and the fun.”
Authors Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield were founding members of the Reduced Shakespeare Company. They first performed the play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1987. It ran at London’s Criterion Theatre for nine years.