Review by Sean McQuaid
Kassinda Bulger, Benton Hartley and Jay Nicholson
Laura K. Bird
Authors Adam Long, Daniel Singer & Jess Winfield packed all of Shakespeare’s plays (or assorted distorted fragments of same) into one show in 1987. Later revisions by the authors, plus tweaks and improvisations by Bird and her cast help modernize and localize the script. Most of the plays get fleeting cameos, but featured stories include a loving look at Romeo and Juliet, heaps of Hamlet, and a meaty serving of Titus Andronicus.
Bulger and Hartley are funny, flexible, versatile and responsive, as befits their improv experience. Hartley in particular excels at listening to his scene partners, an underrated but essential skill. All three actors play many characters, plus fictionalized versions of themselves presenting the plays.
Nicholson isn’t quite so confidently polished or genuine as his partners, but he’s an enthusiastic, likeable stage presence and his less-slick vibe actually fits the role they give his fictionalized self as the least knowledgeable presenter, so he’s quite effective here and often a crowd-pleaser.
There’s a sense of manic, anything-goes whimsy that comes with a small troupe playing a big cast of characters at breakneck speed and with gleeful abandon. The actors are having fun and it’s contagious, even (or especially) during performance glitches (whether deliberate or genuinely accidental), such as Bulger hilariously cracking up during her own puppet show.
The script unavoidably shortchanges most of Shakespeare’s plays in terms of stage time, the authors’ humour gets a little crass in spots and the show’s comedy isn’t always kid-friendly, though the iffier bits are often lost on younger patrons regardless.
If heavily abridged Shakespeare blended with pure, uncut silliness into a potent comedy smoothie sounds refreshing, get thee to Georgetown while supplies last.
—On stage at Kings Playhouse in Georgetown July 15, 29 & August 5, 12, 19, 26, 2018