Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Bard, abridged

nexStage parody rolls every Shakespeare work into one

Express Staff Writer

From left, Matt Gorby, Steve d’Smith and Will Hemmings play assorted characters in “The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged)” at the nexStage Theatre in Ketchum through Sunday, Aug. 31.
Courtesy photo

    Iambic pentameter works fine. But why not write a Shakespearean play say, “Othello” as a rap song instead? You’ll get to rhyme “Othello” with “Jell-O,” “Cassio” with “Schmo” and Desdemona with, well, “alone-a.”
    Renaissance scholars are shuddering, but audiences are laughing at “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged),” aka “The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged),” which returns in all its truncated glory to Ketchum for the third time since 2008, onstage nightly through Sunday, Aug. 31, at the nexStage Theatre in Ketchum as part of the Sun Valley Shakespeare Festival.
    The parody mashes 36 of Shakespeare’s plays and all 154 of his sonnets into the first act, and “Hamlet” (four times, including a version done backwards) into the second act.
    Yes, “Othello” is reduced to a hip-hop tune. “Titus Andronicus” becomes a cooking show called “Roman Meals.” The tragedies are played out as an American football game, with the British Crown as the football. And all 16 comedies (which contain the same plot devices anyway) are condensed into one: “The Comedy of Two Well-Measured Gentleman Lost in the Merry Wives of Venice on a Midsummer’s Twelfth Night in Winter,” filled with dukes, shipwrecks and countless sets of identical twins.
    Three actors play all the parts, with help from props like puppets, a robot and numerous wigs. The stars of the nexStage production are local actors/bartenders Matt Gorby, Will Hemmings and Steve d’Smith.
    “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” was written and first performed by the Reduced Shakespeare Company in 1987 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Since then the company has gone on to produce numerous “abridged” shows, including “The Complete History of America,” “The Bible” and “The Complete History of Sports.”
    Gorby, Hemmings and d’S.mith originally wanted to perform the abridged “Sports” as the indoor production to accompany the outdoor Shakespeare play as part of the Sun Valley Shakespeare Festival. But when the theater decided not to do an outdoor show because of scheduling problems, the trio chose a reprise of “The Complete Works of Shakespeare” instead.
    Because the play includes improvisation and references to pop culture, the show is different each time it’s performed.
    This time, for example, instead of references to Sarah Palin and “General Hospital,” the actors insert references to John Boehner and “Game of Thrones.” Expect a few Ketchum/Sun Valley references as well.
    Why do the play for a third time?
    “At our first rehearsal, we were laughing hysterically,” Gorby said. “If we still love it, then everyone else will, too.”
    The most difficult part of the show, Hemmings said, “is getting people to come see it. Shakespeare has this stigma of being stifling, dry and boring. This is not like that.”
    D’Smith added that audience members “don’t have to know much about Shakespeare.”
    Barry said the trio mostly sticks to the original script, but the writers, in their notes to people putting on the play, encourage improvisation: “Please, have some fun and come up with your very own put-downs of annoying famous people where required.”

“The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged)”

WHAT: Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets condensed into two hours.
WHERE: nexStage Theatre, 120 S. Main St., Ketchum.
WHEN: 7 p.m. daily through Sunday, Aug. 31.
COST: $20 (ticket good for all remaining shows).
TICKETS/DETAILS: 726-4TKS (4857) or


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