Where would we be without William Shakespeare?
So many elements from his stories have been borrowed and recycled so often that they’re now clichés, and he coined countless words and expressions that have long been part of the modern lexicon. More so than any other writer, Shakespeare’s work is inextricably linked to the way we speak and the way we tell stories today.
But sitting down and parsing every turn of phrase in Shakespeare’s intimidating body of work is a Herculean task, one that requires as much time as it does diligence.
It’s a good thing, then, that Interplayers is producing a limited summer run of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [revised],” a breakneck comedy originally devised and performed by California’s Reduced Shakespeare Company that crams all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays into a show that runs a little over 90 minutes.
Think of it as theatrical CliffsNotes at lightning speed.
In the show, written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield, a trio of actors run furiously through the entirety of Shakespeare’s plays – some take a few minutes, others only a matter of seconds – and they’re all presented in ways you might not expect.
For instance, the plot of Othello is converted into a rap. “Titus Andronicus” is turned into a particularly morbid cooking show (you don’t want to know the ingredients in those pies). All 16 of Shakespeare’s comedies, including “Much Ado About Nothing” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” are condensed down into one. An extremely abbreviated “Hamlet” is told first forward and then backward.
A vast knowledge of Shakespeare certainly isn’t required to enjoy the show: Most of the humor comes from the energy of the actors, as well as the bizarre contrast between Shakespeare’s vernacular and the modern pop culture references littered throughout.
But “The Complete Works of Shakespeare (abridged) [revised]” will likely be funnier the more familiar you are with the Bard’s work. As the three performers dismember “Romeo and Juliet” and “Henry V,” you might come to appreciate even more how relevant Shakespeare continues to be.