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Flash in the Pan: Set and Pacing Slow The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged)

& Preview: Flash in the Pan: The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) Is a Wild-and-Crazy Show

July 31, 2005 - Raleigh, NC:


Originally written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Winfield for the world-famous Reduced Shakespeare Company, The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) is an inspired 97-minute spoof of all things Shakespearean. When it hits on all eight cylinders, Shakespeare is a comic juggernaut. Sadly, the current Flash in the Pan production of this paragon of sketch comedy — which plays Aug. 4-6 in the Leggett Theatre at Peace College — is a hit and miss affair.

By tinkering with the RSC’s patented comic formula of high-octane performances with minimal sets, costumes, and props, director Andy Hayworth inevitably slows the comic pace. By setting the show on the wrong set (a cheap motel room set with two single beds and four doors for slamming), Hayworth sought to heighten the hilarity of the piece. Instead, he diffuses the show’s comic focus by forcing the actors to run around the beds and back and forth through the doors.

Moreover, the show’s promising but youthful cast (Noelle Barnard, Caleb Custer, and Matthew Rockel) is too young and inexperienced to milk all the bellylaughs from this tried-and-true PG-13-rated material, which condenses the 37 plays and the sonnets of incomparable English dramatist William Shakespeare (1564-1616) into a series of comic sketches.

It is funny to see Romeo and Juliet performed with a butt-ugly, potty-mouthed Juliet (Matt Rockel) in drag; to see Othello transformed into a rap song; to have Shakespeare’s History Plays performed as a sandlot football game in which the crown of the king of England substitutes for the traditional pigskin; and to see portions of Hamlet heavily satirized, with the timeless tragedy’s bloody final confrontation repeated three times, faster and faster. But this cast, which is highly amusing at times, lacks the distinct diction and the more subtle comic skills to make The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) a must-see comedy.

Noelle Barnard, Caleb Custer, and Matthew Rockel all demonstrated promise; they all have bright futures ahead. A little refinement of their diction, a little polish in their delivery, and they’ll be ready for Prime Time.

Special Offer: Name five Shakespeare plays at the door and get in for HALF PRICE. That’s just $5 for adults and $2.50 for students, seniors 65+, active-duty military personnel, and anyone with a good excuse.

Flash in the Pan presents The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) Thursday-Saturday, Aug.4-6, at 8 p.m. in Leggett Theatre at Peace College, 15 E. Peace St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $10 ($5 students, seniors 65+, active-duty military personnel, and anyone with a good excuse). 919/602-8034. Reduced Shakespeare Company: http://www.reducedshakespeare.com/shakespeare.html [inactive 11/05]. Shakespeare Resources (University of Virginia): http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/shakespeare/ [inactive 3/10].


PREVIEW: Flash in the Pan: The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) Is a Wild-and-Crazy Show

by Robert W. McDowell

For its inaugural production, Flash in the Pan choose a certified laff riot, The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged), a wild-and-crazy show originally written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Winfield for the Reduced Shakespeare Company. Andy Hayworth, who has served as stage manager for a number of Triangle shows, will direct this PG-13-rated production, which stars Noelle Barnard, Caleb Custer, and Matthew Rockel as a protean ensemble that will spoof all of the Immortal Bard’s 37 plays and his sonnets in approximately 97 minutes.

“I first read the play in college,” recalls director Andy Hayworth, “and I directed a scene from it for a directing class. Later, I stage managed a production of the show for the Maine Shakespeare Festival in Bangor, Maine, in the summer of 2002.”

Hayworth adds, “This play is extremely funny. Shakespeare’s plays are usually intimidating to audiences and actors alike. What better way to break the ice, so to speak, than by ‘abridging’ the plays into under two hours of painfully short mini-plays?

“I picked The Complete Works to direct,” Hayworth explains, “because it’s one of my favorite plays. Mostly, I wanted to do it because it’s a ton of fun. And I knew three actors that would be great for the parts. It seemed like a perfect fit.”

He adds, “Prior to the start of the show, perhaps mere hours before curtain time, Caleb Custer, Noelle Barnard, and Matthew Rockel decide, each for different reasons, that Raleigh is in desperate need of education on the glory that is William Shakespeare. But they only have the space for two hours, maybe less. The solution? Reduce it. What follows is The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, not just abridged, but also (because they can’t help themselves) mocked, maimed, and desecrated.

“Noelle is the most scholarly of the trio,” notes Hayworth, “and a little obsessive in her zeal over the Bard. Caleb keeps the show moving and is something of an enforcer, reigning in Rockel, who plays all of the female roles and interacts with the audience a little more than is called for.”

In addition to director Andy Hayworth, the show’s creative team includes set designer Dennis I. Johnson and sound designer Jeremy Allen.

“We used the lights that were already up in and circuited in the theater space,” notes Hayworth. “Matthew Rockel put in some blue gels.”

Hayworth says, “We borrowed a big pile of Renaissance costumes, and the actors picked what they wanted. Noelle Barnard sewed a dress for Juliet.”

He adds, “The set is not a traditional ‘Shakespearian’ set. Every production of Complete Works (Abridged) is always on some Elizabethan set or else no set at all. I thought it would be fun, even if it didn’t make sense, to work on the premise that the three actors get stuck with the wrong set by mistake that of a bedroom farce. There are two beds, two trunks for hiding props, and an ugly green wall with four doors in it. The set is shoddy and thrown together, since the idea is that these three actors threw this [show] together very quickly.”

According to Hayworth, “The lighting is very simplistic, in keeping with the very hastily mounted, low-budget production concept (both out of artistic choice and our actual low budget).”

Hayworth says the performers’ basic costumes are “T-shirts and pants or shorts. Chuck Taylor All Stars Converse are the footwear of choice,” he explains, “and upon these garments are thrown pieces of vaguely Elizabethan garb. [There are] lots of quick changes and cross-dressing.”

He adds, “One major challenge this play presents is that many people have seen it before. It is a favorite usually. I know it’s mine. There are many pre-conceived notions. ‘They didn’t do the giant teddy bear like the other people did. I was waiting for it.’ That kind of thing.

“Second, the play cannot drag or it is torture,” Hayworth claims. “It has to be fast and funny. It has to be a whirlwind and over before you know it. That’s tough on any play, but try doing all of Shakespeare’s plays!

“Third, I was using a woman, Noelle, in a traditionally male role,” notes Andy Hayworth. “Her role, of the three, was the only one that could take this change. The other two need to be male for the gender-bending jokes in the show to be funny. And will an audience buy that of a group of three people, one of them female, that a guy plays all the female roles? We’ll see.”

Finally, to maximize their enjoyment, Andy Hayworth warns ticket-buyers to choose their seats wisely. “You might get wet if you sit in the front row,” he warns. “There is excessive use of water in the show.”

Special Offer: Name five Shakespeare plays at the door and get in for HALF PRICE. That’s just $5 for adults and $2.50 for students, seniors 65+, active-duty military personnel, and anyone with a good excuse.

Flash in the Pan presents The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) Friday-Saturday, July 29-30, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, July 31, at 2 p.m.; and Thursday-Saturday, Aug.4-6, at 8 p.m. in Leggett Theatre at Peace College, 15 E. Peace St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $10 ($5 students, seniors 65+, active-duty military personnel, and anyone with a good excuse), except July 31 pay-what-you-can performance. 919/602-8034. Reduced Shakespeare Company: http://www.reducedshakespeare.com/shakespeare.html [inactive 11/05]. Shakespeare Resources (University of Virginia): http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/shakespeare/ [inactive 3/10].