The key thing to know about “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)” is that it is a comedy. The cast promises to show all of the important parts of the 37 plays at breakneck speed. If you’re like most of the audience, you have probably read – or suffered through – two or three of Shakespeare’s plays when you were in high school. The creators of this show use those experiences as a springboard for broad humor, both verbal and visual, in one evening.
The first act introduces the cast of three and sets up interactions with the audience. One of the cast emerges from the audience. “Romeo and Juliet,” probably the most popular of Shakespeare’s plays, is first to be shortened. We meet the two feuding families. Soon Douglas Bailey becomes young naive Romeo. Sean Cahill is Juliet, and Dan Sekanic, looking scholarly in glasses, is the narrator and multiple characters. Knowing what to expect, the audience next experiences the bloody “Titus Andronicus” as a cooking show with its theme of severed limbs. Next, since all of Shakespeare’s comedies are similar, they are combined into one experience in which there are identical twins, shipwrecks and male cast members playing women playing boys. Very clever wordplay here. The histories follow as a football game. And then we get an intermission.
The cast spend all of the second act on “Hamlet.” There’s a lot of audience interaction, and some of the audience take roles on stage. Directed by Mark Moritz, “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)” delighted the opening night crowd, which should be a good measure for the rest of its run. All of the cast had good comic timing down for the first night, and things should get even better through the run. The show gives the illusion of tons of improvisation, but most of it is scripted by the creators of the show, Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield. The Huntington cast have an energy and dynamism all their own. Cahill, especially, seems like he is just on the edge of “out of control,” but in fact is an energized, disciplined performer.
“The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)” runs through June 29 at the theater in the Huntington Reservation of the Cleveland Metroparks. If you want to support this local theater with more than one visit, consider purchasing a “flex-pass,” which will give you six vouchers for the season. You can see one play six times (if your grandchild is in the production) or see each of the six plays of the season one time each (a better option). You’ll also save some money in the process.