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The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged)

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The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged), A Crew of Patches Theatre Company, at City Lit Theater Company. Suggesting the intellectual curiosity of Cliffs Notes and the irreverence of Rocky and Bullwinkle's "Fractured Fairy Tales," this smart-ass two-hour lampoon of Shakespeare's 37 plays is a cheeky frat-boy show delivered by three cocky male players and a deliberately marginalized female assistant. Billed as a cure for sufferers of Bardophobia, it's not just a flippant free-for-all with elaborately ignorant explications. It's also a hilarious anthology of bad acting--chronic upstaging, semaphore gesturing, mechanical recitation--and desperate ad-libs.

Stratford's favorite son must be used to spinning in his grave. Here the causes are a Romeo and Juliet dumbed down to the level of "Pyramus and Thisbe," the history plays condensed into a football game, the 16 comedies reduced to a single messy plot, a rap Othello, a Macbeth delivered in nearly impenetrable Scottish accents, Titus Andronicus reduced to a cannibal cooking show, and Hamlet shrunk to one minute and played backward.

This popular script by Daniel Singer, Jess Winfield, and Adam Long is an odd choice for a new troupe dedicated to Shakespeare's serious side. But as a showcase for four supple actors--Trevor Luce, Kiersten DeBrower, Jeffrey Stringer, and Benjamin Montague, dexterously directed by David Blixt--the piece is a great calling card. Though it reeks of anything-for-a-laugh clowning, the Patches' comic instincts--especially Stringer's attacks of attitude--are just what the master ordered.

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