The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)

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In recent years the Reduced Shakespeare Company has performed a condensed version of the Bible, squashing the whole holy writ into less time than it takes to read the Book of Job aloud, and a similarly reduced version of American history. But the hubristic show that put this company of wise fools on the map in the late 80s was their attempt to do all of Shakespeare's plays, plus a couple poem cycles, in 97 minutes. Performing in a manic style that combines commedia, the Keystone Kops, and improv--developed at Renaissance Faires in northern and southern California--the original RSC guys reeled through the Bard's plays like a trio of college students on crystal meth trying to ingest a whole semester's reading in a couple of hours. Other theaters have performed the show here in recent years, but those who created it truly know how to mine its crazy salad of Shakespearean gestures, half-remembered lines, and half-baked interpretations--a rap version of Othello, a clown edition of Romeo and Juliet, a cooking-show treatment of Titus Andronicus. RSC also succeeds in both burying the Bard and praising him, sending up his more sublime work yet remaining utterly faithful to the mad populist spirit of his affectionate scene for the amateur acting troupe in A Midsummer Night's Dream. The current touring version stars original writers Adam Long and Reed Martin plus longtime RSC collaborator and former Chicago improv stalwart Austin Tichenor. North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, 847-673-6300. Friday, May 3, 8 PM. $36. Then at the Center for Performing Arts at Governors State University, Governors Highway and University Parkway, University Park, 708-235-2222. Saturday, May 4, 8 PM. $25-$29.

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