By Mary Boyle
William Shakespeare is arguably the greatest playwright and writer in the English language, though, in our modern times, his works are often considered too difficult for your average Joe. Interestingly, the average Joe was exactly who Shakespeare wrote for; his plays are filled with bawdy jokes and songs, slapstick comedies, romance and war --
the very things we crave in our entertainment now. Luckily, the Waukesha Civic Theatre is giving everyone an opportunity to experience The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged), so that we may get a taste of the wonder of the Bard. Thirty-seven plays in ninety-seven minutes...what could go wrong?
Written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Winfield (former founding members of The Reduced Shakespeare Company), and directed by Dustin J. Martin, Complete Works is pulled off with only three actors, using their real names, and a great deal of audience participation. Nicholas Callan Haubner is supposedly a "preeminent Shakespearean scholar" who, along with Jillian Smith and JJ Gatesman, will present an overview of each of the Bard's plays to the audience. After a 12 minute run-through of Romeo & Juliet, the actors realize they're going to have to speed things up a little. Titus Andronicus is done as a cooking show, Othello as a rap, and all 16 Comedies are squished into one play entitled, "The Comedy of Two Well-Measured Gentlemen Lost in the Merry Wives of Venice on a Midsummer's Twelfth Night in Winter," or "Cymbeline Taming Pericles the Merchant in the Tempest of Love as Much as You Like It for Nothing," or "Four Weddings and a Transvestite," and played with the use of some Barbie dolls and stuffed animals.
The amazing thing about the play is that it manages to make fun of all of Shakespeare's works while maintaining an absolute reverence for them and their author at the same time; thus, fans of the Bard will be delighted instead of offended, and those who are new to the Bard will become fans. It's a win for everyone, really, and a wonderfully good laugh, to boot! If nothing else, see the play because it holds two World Records: one for the shortest-ever performance of Hamlet, and one for the fastest performance of Hamlet — backwards.
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) runs through February 18th at the Margaret Brate Bryant Civic Theatre Building, located at 264 West Main Street in downtown Waukesha. Tickets can be purchased by calling (262) 547-0708, or online at www.waukeshacivictheatre.org.
The Waukesha Civic Theatre, Inc. is a non-profit corporation whose mission is to provide quality live theatre performances and educational opportunities that will enrich, challenge and entertain both participants and audience members. In July of 2006, the Waukesha Civic Theatre began its 50th season. With that historic season, WCT joined an elite group: according to the American Association of Community Theatres, of the roughly 7,000 community theatres in the United States, only about 100 can claim 50 years of continuous operation. It has undergone many positive changes from its beginnings in 1957 with productions at Waukesha High School. In 1999, WCT moved from a former church to a beautiful new facility in the heart of historic downtown Waukesha. The building, a former historic PIX movie house, was donated to WCT by Bryce Styza, a prominent local developer who saw the power that the theatre could exert in revitalizing downtown. Since the theatre opened in 1957 to the start of its 51st season in September of 2007, over 10,000 people have volunteered and 200,000 audience members have been entertained.