The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), originally created by Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Winfield for California’s Reduced Shakespeare Company and currently being performed by North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre and Raleigh’s Village Idiots, is an uproarious 97-minute romp through all 37 plays and 154 sonnets of English playwright and poet William Shakespeare (1564-1616). This joint NRACT and RVI production, under the direction of Michael Anderson and starring three members of the improvisational comedy troupe, is (mostly) an Idiots’ delight (pun intended). This nearly two-hour presentation (including intermission) eschews the traditional SuperSoaker squirt guns that terrorize the front rows, but adds a routine of rudimentary magic tricks (rope and rings tricks performed by Michael A. West) at the close of Act I and leavens the surefire script with topical ad-libs and impersonations that almost always heighten the hilarity.
Roly-poly Mikey West dons a hideous wig and headband and a hang-dog expression to play the straight man as Romeo opposite Wade Newhouse, who slips on an equally hideous blonde wig for his outrageous impersonation of Juliet and, later, of Ophelia and other Shakespearean heroines — all of whom seem to have delicate stomachs that require frequent purging, in the middle of the audience.
Raleigh’s Village Idiots director Matthew Krevat is likewise hilarious as the hot-tempered Othello the moor of Venice and the dithering Dane Prince Hamlet.
Whether fearlessly parodying Shakespeare’s tragedies one by one, performing the ultra-bloody Titus Andronicus as an appalling cable TV cooking show, condensing the comedies of the Immortal Bard into a single zany romp, or transforming Shakespeare’s history plays into a football game, wherein the peripatetic crown substitutes for the traditional pigskin, these three Idiots kept the NRACT’s Friday-night audience howling. Their fast-and-furious performance of Hamlet, which comprised most of Act II and was repeated several times faster and faster and, then, backwards in slow motion to great comic effect, featured Matthew Krevat as the revenge-minded Hamlet, Mikey West as the windbag Polonius, and Wade Newhouse doing a Bill Clinton imitation for the Ghost and playing King Claudius with a Texas twang a la George W. Bush. Newhouse also added a hysterical send-up of the overwrought Ophelia.
Director Michael Anderson took a chance when he allowed these three Idiots to take such liberties with the tried-and-true script of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). But most of the director’s and cast’s attempts to enliven these already lively proceedings paid comic dividends—except for the superfluous magic tricks at the end of Act I. They slow the show’s comic momentum and could easily be cut.
North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre and Raleigh’s Village Idiots present The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) Thursday-Saturday, Jan. 25-27, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 28, at 3 p.m. at NRACT in the Greystone Village Shopping Center, 7713-51 Leadmine Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina. $12 ($10 students and seniors), except $8 matinees. 919/866-0228. North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre: http://www.nract.org/ [inactive 4/08]. Raleigh’s Village Idiots: http://www.idiots.net/ idiots_files/pages/home.html [inactive 8/07]. Reduced Shakespeare Company: http://www.reducedshakespeare.com/. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged): http://www. reducedshakespeare com/shakespeare.html [inactive 5/07].