When it comes to Cedarville theatre productions, “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [revised]” is by far one of the most interesting plot-wise. The reason being: there really is no story plot. However, in spite of its peculiarity, opening night was a big hit with the audience, who rarely had a moment when they weren’t laughing.
The play opens with an explanation that the small troupe of actors will attempt to, in just ninety-seven minutes, give the audience a run down and experience of all thirty-seven of Shakespeare’s plays, from tragedies to comedies to histories. Clearly aghast with the audience’s clear lack of knowledge and familiarity with Shakespeare, the cast prepares to begin their elaborate and comical telling of the plays of Shakespeare.
They begin with one of the most popular, “Romeo and Juliet”, where Romeo (Calvin HItchcock) is comically over the top in love with Juliet, while the actor playing Juliet (Savannah Hart) is clearly not enjoying having to do this with him. After realizing that, at the rate they are moving, they will be done in seven hours, the cast rapidly moves on to “Titus Andronicus”, presented as a cooking show, a rap version of “Othello”, and all sixteen of Shakespeare’s comedies lumped into one completely nonsensical play. The troupe jumps straight back into the tragedies, from “Macbeth” as very stereotypically Scottish, to the quick succession of Julius Caesar and Antony, accompanied by Cleopatra (Ranae Haskins). In an effort to keep things exciting and engaging for the audience, the histories are turned into a football game, with the ball (crown) being passed from king to king. At the end of Act 1, Jordan Fredericks realizes that they are short just one play: “Hamlet”.
As “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [revised]” is a spoof, and is meant to make fun of Shakespeare’s work, the retellings of the plays are over-exaggerated and very nonsensical. That being said, even in the tragedies, there are many moments of comedy, including the commedia dell’arte style of slapstick humor used in this play. Since this is essentially a play within a play, the performers break character constantly, but it only adds to the hilarity of the show, especially when they have their own ideas of how Shakespeare should be interpreted.
After intermission, they begin “Hamlet”, but the actor playing Hamlet (Jeremy Smith) is unable to make it through the “To Be” speech. In a moment of revelation, the cast admits that most of them actually find Shakespeare fairly boring and too complicated to understand. But when Stephen De Jong begins to recite part of a monologue, the actors realize how beautiful and important the many layers to the characters are. Spurred by this new excitement, the troupe makes it the rest of the way through the play–with a little help along the way.
And with that, “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [revised]” is completed, with the audience on their feet.
The play is anything but ordinary, and while most of the show is crazy and nonsensical, the atmosphere is light and energetic, and it is all but impossible to leave without a smile on one’s face. However, within the craziness, if there is one message to be found, it is that Shakespeare is far more beautiful and deep than most people realize. While yes, the language can be a bit difficult to understand at times, the complexity and layers given to the characters are fascinating, and are sure to make the readers or audience take a deeper look at their lives, and the world around them. After all, as Hamlet said, “What a piece of work is a man?”
The show runs through Sunday, April 9 in the DeVries Theater, and tickets can be purchased at the SSC Information desk or online at cedarville.edu/ticketinfo.
Shelby Ahlborg is a sophomore theatre major and A&E writer for Cedars. She enjoys drawing, listening to movie scores and writing fiction stories.