"The Compleat Works of William Shakespeare, abridged" is the funniest show that I’ve ever seen at the Brown County Playhouse.
From the opening as three actor presented "Romeo and Juliet" to the closing "Hamlet" in a minute and forty-five seconds the energy was unflagging. The bloody "Titus Andronicus" appeared as a cooking show. "Othello" was a nicely stylized "rap" trio. Conflating all of the comedies into a single play did neatly show, Shakepeare’s reliance on formulas, but robbed of any of the language or the fascinating characters got a little tedious. Treating all of the history plays as a football game with the crown being carried, passed and even punted from John to Richard, to Henry, to Henry, to Henry, to another Richard and finally to still another Henry is a great idea. It works very neatly, but needs to breathe a bit more. "Macbeth," "Julius Ceasar," "Anthony and Cleopatra," and "Troilius and Cresida" were quickly dispatched.
The entire second act of "The Compleat Works of William Shakespeare, abridged" was given over to "Hamlet." The ghost of Hamlet’s father appeared with a mask of Edvard Munch’s "The Scream" for dramatic effect and with a shirt neatly stenciled with the word "Dad" for dramatic clarity. The play within a play was economically handled with hand puppets. In a major detour, the cast decided to go into psychological depth in seeking insights into Ophelia. They got the entire audience involved with sections playing Ophelia’s id, ego and superego with catch phrases and matching hand gestures. As an encore they did indeed recap "Hamlet" in a minute and forty-five seconds. But that wasn’t enough, and they then did it in thirty-eight seconds, backwards.
The actors that director Dale McFadden affectionately calls the "three knuckleheads" simply romp through the evening. As you might guess, costume changes are many, wigs fly off and on, and scenes come and go with great rapidity. For the audience’s convenience costume designer Katherine Garlick has Nick Arapoglou, Chris Hatch and Derek Dion in color coordinated high top sneakers. Nick is in flaming red, Chris in pacific Green, and Derek in dignified black. Mood lighting was done appropriately enough by Maria Shakespeare and the set appropriately enough, in mock-Tudor, was by Dathan Powell.
The Brown County Playhouse’s production of "The Compleat Works of William Shakespeare, abridged," plays Wednesdays through Sundays through August twenty-seventh.
You can find this an interview with cast members Chris Hatch and Nick Arapoglou on our Arts Interviews page .