The Complete Works Of William Shakespeare (Abridged) (Revised)

Photo credit: Anna Rodriguez

Photo credit: Anna Rodriguez

Not so much modernized (though there were a few moments of that to be sure) as “abridged” and “revised,” in wholly wild ways The Complete Works Of William Shakespeare (Abridged) (Revised) presented on the outdoor stage of The Shakespeare Theatre Of New Jersey, is a spectacular hour and half hour romp ‘round The Bard. Starring Jon Barker, Connor Carew and Patrick Toon we have here a trio equal to the task of making and having fun with this heady well-revered cannon. Truncating running times, running riot round logic (and the two book tower set), making merry by rapping, enlisting audience participation, doing a mock of the terribly tragic Titus Andronicus, via Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” Barker, Carew and Toon  keep things ever moving, to an often exhausting revelry, in Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Weinfield’s very clever play.

The 2nd act Hamlet, brought off as well as explained in ever successive sped-up versions is especially well played (the guys even do it backward at one point.) Doors in the fake books set of the stage are opened, slammed; Carew especially flies round changing outfits as much as gender; the audience is fully enlisted for the mayhem (even two members are pulled on stage) and the laughs here rise to a fever pitch as does the performances.

What pulls all of this together though really is how likeable each character is. We can’t help but root for Barker, Carew and Toon to pull off the seemingly impossible in the time allotted as we get to know each man and his passionate mission to really explain and get us to love Shakespeare.

Benjamin Kramer needs to be mentioned for his set (see the picture above) as well as Hamilton E. S. Smith for his lighting design, as Tiffany Lent for her costumes which go from the guys wearing bright Chuck Taylors and matching socks to Carew wearing a tube top (and that wild Guy Fieri wig) to Toon capes and wigs himself.

Director Jeffrey M. Bender pulls off a grand feat here with his actors and crew, making The Complete Works Of William Shakespeare (Abridged) (Revised) a true must-see to get out of the city for. Playing until 7/31, find tickets here.

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