Favorite

Theater Review: Quill's Shakespeare Homage Blends Physical Humor and Audience Participation 

click to enlarge Actors Dixon Cashwell, C.J. Bergin and Joseph Bromfield use their own names while embodying character types in “The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr: Abridged.”

Aaron Sutten

Actors Dixon Cashwell, C.J. Bergin and Joseph Bromfield use their own names while embodying character types in “The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr: Abridged.”

High-school drama kids in the mid- to late ’90s were likely to cross paths with the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s play, “The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged),” or “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).”

Written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield, the company first performed the play at Renaissance festivals as a truncated version of “Hamlet,” inspired by Tom Stoppard’s “15 Minute Hamlet” from 1976. It gathered a following over the years and grew to include light-hearted parodies of all of Shakespeare’s work. In 1996, “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” opened at the Criterion Theatre in London.

Quill Theatre’s production pays homage to the era of the play’s inception, playing ’90s hits in the theater before and after each act, from such bands as Smash Mouth, the Goo Goo Dolls and the Beastie Boys.

One of the things I love is how the production maintains its ties to the ’90s era while updating a lot of the humor. A joke that depends on a reference to Prince includes a quick and appropriate acknowledgement of his passing. A Justin Bieber gag sneaks in and, in response to some unsolicited audience commentary, a little timely political humor.

Speaking of audience participation, there’s a lot of it. Actors break the fourth wall constantly to address the audience and sometimes invite people onstage. This offers great potential for unexpected twists and turns, and it’s bound to be a new and different experience each night.

Director Maggie Roop has fully realized this play’s ability to appeal to Shakespeare fans and critics alike. The cast is excellent. Actors use their own names, while embodying character types who assume the roles in each of the plays they parody. Dixon Cashwell is perfect as the Shakespearean scholar, while Joseph Bromfield plays straight man to C.J. Bergin’s childish, misinformed, cold-footed and cross-dressing Shakespearean novice.

All three actors demonstrate a strong sense of physical humor, and there is genuine chemistry among them. In the few moments in the script that allow actors to deliver honest performances of snippets of Shakespearean monologues, they prove that they aren’t only excellent comedians but also skilled, serious players with a depth of understanding and respect for the Bard’s work.

As far as production value, this play can work well with minimal attention to light, sound, props and costumes. That’s what makes it such a popular choice for high-school drama clubs. But this production, though still sparse as the script demands, goes above and beyond with some period garb and Catharine Dent’s smart lighting cues.

Audiences should expect a fun-filled, high-energy performance that requires no prior knowledge of Shakespeare — but it might make you wish you knew more. S

Quill Theatre’s “The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr: Abridged” runs Jan. 27-Feb. 12 at the Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen. Tickets are $28.

Favorite

Tags:

Latest in Theater

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Claire Boswell

Connect with Style Weekly

Most Popular Stories

  • Gallery5 goes to all-Virginia products to lower carbon footprint

    Gallery5 goes to all-Virginia products to lower carbon footprint

    Also holding 50 Mile Fest art show during month of May.
    • May 7, 2021
  • Island Mascot

    Island Mascot

    Sculpture “Edwards the Fisherman” has survived high water to remain watching over an island in the middle of the James.
    • May 11, 2021
  • Wild Rides

    Wild Rides

    Richmond native and New York multi-instrumentalist Michael Hearst releases his fourth book and album, “Unconventional Vehicles.”
    • May 6, 2021
  • Hearing the Call

    Hearing the Call

    Menuhin Competition guest artist Regina Carter discusses the Olympics for young violinists, held this year in Richmond.
    • May 4, 2021
  • More »

Copyright © 2021 Style Weekly
Richmond's alternative for news, arts, culture and opinion
All rights reserved
Powered by Foundation