What do you get when you take three high-energy actors and put them on an open stage with a few props and unlimited material? You get "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)" at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, that's what!
Last night, my wife and I experienced the sight gags, physical comedy, and parodies that make up "The Complete Works" in person. By the end of the performance, which lasted two hours, we were exhausted from laughing so much.
The trio of actors - Chris Faith, Shawn Fagan and Christopher Patrick Mullen - performed with such energy and flair, that the time went fast. Their stamina was astounding, with all the costume changes and running and bang-bang action.
I've seen "The Complete Works" before (although not at PSF), but this production was different - it was modern, irreverent and a lot of fun. Nearly the entire run of Shakespeare’s history was reduced to a football game!
I enjoyed how the actors inserted Lehigh Valley and broader regional references - like Phillies pitcher Cole "Hamlet," Donavan McNabb (vomiting in the Super Bowl), Yuengling beer, Spring Valley Inn - throughout. Even a review by local reporter Paul Willistein was fair game.
Hamlet was performed four times: fast, faster, fastest and backward! One time, an audience member was called up on stage to represent Opheli'as tortured mind, complete with her scream, while the rest of the audience egged her on.
This show has everything: Stairway to Heaven, the Beatles, Dick Cheney, light sabre fights. Whether you like Shakespeare or hate Shakespeare, you can’t help but love this performance. And remember: "A nose by any other name would still smell."
Will you be seeing a show at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival this year? ("The Complete Works" runs till Sunday.)
*Thanks to PSF & Lee A. Butz for the above photo.