The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged has made its way back to its roots in Marin County, and the three, Converse-clad representatives at Marin Shakespeare will have you rolling in the aisles. Under the direction of Robert Currier, Darren Bridgett and Jarion Monroe bring in Marin Shakespeare newcomer Ryan Schmidt for a rollicking two hours of scripted, improvised, cross-dressing, very physical, audience-participating, pop-cultured, touching on every work in some wayshapeform production that provides audiences with, among other bits of enjoyment, Othello’s criminal defense as they rap “If the pillow don’t fit, you must acquit.”
That right there should convince you to grab your fistful of dollars and head out to Marin Shakes for an evening under the stars. Be mindful, however, that those in the front row or so will get many a mouthful of Bridgett’s pockets full of “vomit,” and if you have a slicker, you might want to bring it along in case you get caught in the squirt gun crossfire that immerses you in sixteen Comedies in four minutes. These boys don’t for a moment come up for air. Even their intermission is a mad dash ‘round the Forest Meadows’ grounds for fear of making a fretful mess of Hamlet in the second half of the show.
One of the lovely things about this play is that it makes Shakespeare completely workable for any patron, at any level of Shakespeare aptitude. The two biggies are more complete than the rest. Romeo and Juliet begins the play, and Hamlet takes up the rear quite literally, as Schmidt, who more or less plays the Prince of Denmark, bites his thumb at silence, and lets you know “The rest is flatulence.” There was a time I would have cringed at such irreverent potty humor, but this living script, published in 1994 by Daniel Singer, Adam Long, and Jess Borgeson of the original Reduced Shakespeare Company, is smart, and in this case, it is delivered by a whip smart cast.
Monroe adds a bit of fun and awkward cynicism to the cast, while Schmidt brings along a goofy boyish charm, but it’s Bridgett who steals the show. When he’s not vomiting somewhere on the front row, Bridgett is stealing wine from the audience, or running ’round the stage in an hysterical frenzy as he tackles every female character with vigor, wearing a bad wig and some cup runneth over falsies. I about fell over when Bridgett took the stage dressed as a tube sock in representation of the ghost of Hamlet’s father. And his one moment of seriousness permits Bridgett to conquer Hamlet’s soliloquy “What a piece of work is man” for an audience who falls silent in reverence. But no matter how many cool references there are to Star Wars, Jack Sparrow, the Transformers, or to Bill and Ted, keep in mind this excellent adventure is rated PG-13. Sitting front and center was a boy not yet old enough to get into such a film, and I’ll be the first to admit he seemed to know what he was getting himself into by sitting in the front row, as he was laughing perhaps the loudest of us all. But periodic language, sexual innuendos made obvious, an empty baggie letting us know “the time is out of joints,” and Monroe’s mouthed bit of fellatio in response to Juliet’s/Bridgett’s question “What satisfaction canst thou have tonight?” raised a few eyebrows regarding present company.
The only slow part of the production occurs when it’s time for the audience to participate. An audience member climbs onstage to play Ophelia with a scream or two, and the audience is divided to represent Ophelia’s ego, super-ego, and id. I know it’s part of the act, and I do appreciate a good breaking of the fourth wall, but frankly, I want to see Bridgett, Monroe, and Schmidt do what they do best, which is play off of one another in perfectly timed verse and prose.
I think my friend said it best when he stated, “My jaw hurts.” We both laughed, and laughed loudly for this two hour tour through Shakespeare’s works. This is the perfect opportunity to brush up on your Shakespeare, and these three boys will win your hearts.