The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) in Rosendale

Jeff Battersby, Rick Meyer, Michael Frohnhoefer and Brian Mathews in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), which features all of Shakespeare's plays in 90 minutes. Directed by Christine Crawfis. (photo by Ann Citron)

Jeff Battersby, Rick Meyer, Michael Frohnhoefer and Brian Mathews in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), which features all of Shakespeare’s plays in 90 minutes. Directed by Christine Crawfis. (photo by Ann Citron)

Love Shakespeare? Got some clueless persons in your life who still think of Shakespeare’s works as fusty, stuffy, ponderous and/or incomprehensible? Next week brings a juicy opportunity to clue them in, as the Rosendale Theatre graces its handsome new stage with a live production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). There will be three evening performances and two matinées, so you’ve got no excuse to miss it.

The Bard of Avon may have pandered somewhat to his aristocratic patrons by touting the Divine Right of Kings and tweaking history to make their ancestors look good; but his greatest gifts were crafted for the groundlings, the unlettered rabble in the cheap seats (or no seats at all). Humor of universal appeal permeates his works, and not just those classified as comedies. One of his greatest comic characters, Falstaff, comes from his chronicles of the Wars of the Roses, after all, and even über-tragic Lear had his Fool for a foil.

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For the Shakespeare-resistant, exposure to his funny side can be the slickest way in; and once you’re headed down that slippery slope on a Bardian verbal banana peel, there’s no climbing back out. That’s why our school systems introduce kids to ass-eared Bottom and his “rude mechanicals” in middle school and save Romeo and Juliet for when they’re in the throes of pubescent angst in ninth grade.

Three guys from the Reduced Shakespeare Company named Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield decided to created a painless one-evening survey of all (well, nearly all) the Bard’s works that amps up the humor factor to 11 on a scale of ten. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1987 and went on to a nine-year London run. It’s breathlessly silly, with a tiny cast portraying hundreds of characters (with the help of a dangly puppet as Hamlet’s dead Dad). Titus Andronicus’ morbid pies inspire a cooking show, and all the histories merge into one hectic football game.

But the largest segment of the show is devoted to Hamlet, performed at breakneck speed both frontwards and backwards (in which the ghost puppet says “Oob!”). The audience gets drawn in as well, being invited to evoke Ophelia’s indecisiveness by chanting, “Maybe/Maybe not.” There’s plenty of arguing among the cast, with a plethora of tangents pursued that appear random but are in fact artfully choreographed. The sum of it all is a most pleasurable chaos that should make your lungs ache from laughing and beat down all resistance on the part of any anti-classicist theatergoing companions. It’s Shakespeare without tears – even during the dark stuff. What better way to prolong the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the literary giant’s demise?

The Rosendale Theatre’s new production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) is directed by the formidably talented, ever-busy Christine Crawfis. It stars Jeffery Battersby, Michael Frohnhoefer, Rick Meyer and the current president of the Rosendale Theatre Collective’s Board of Directors, Brian Mathews (who may be fishing for a demotion by appearing in this farce). Shows begin at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, April 28 through 30, and at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, April 30 and May 1. All seats are cheap seats at $15 general admission, $12 for Collective members.

The charmingly renovated, handicapped-accessible Rosendale Theatre is located at 408 Main Street (Route 213) in Rosendale, with ample parking in the rear. Tickets will be sold at the door if not already sold out, but you might want to get yours in advance via www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2511260. Seriously – you don’t want to miss this. For more info, call (845) 658-8989 or visit www.rosendaletheatre.org.

 

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), Thursday-Saturday, April 28-30, 8 p.m., Saturday/Sunday, April 30/May 1, 2 p.m., $15/$12, Rosendale Theatre, 408 Main Street, Rosendale; (845) 658-8989, www.rosendaletheatre.org, www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2511260.

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