Hub Theatre’s Shakespeare Crowd-Pleaser: “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)”

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Presented by Hub Theatre Company of Boston
by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield
Directed by Lauren Elias

July 18 – August 2, 2014
Club Café
209 Columbus Ave
Boston, MA

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Boston) The working hypothesis for The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) appears to be this: when at his most serious, the Bard is the most unintentionally hilarious. It’s darkly comic, in a way, that a pair of lovers would die passionately together despite knowing each other for a few days. And there’s something ridiculous about a prince putting off the assassination of the uncle who stole his crown because he doesn’t believe the ghost of his father. In Hub Theatre Company’s take on the parody, Patrick Curran, Adam Lauver (alternating with Will Moore), and Brooks Reeves seek to both compress and skewer Shakespeare’s body of work.

Director Lauren Elias’ production of the show is dotted with contemporary references (ex. Game of Thrones, Little Honey Boo-Boo), underlining the space between our era and the Elizabethan one where the plays originated. The stark contrast allows Lauver and Curran to play fast and loose with the material. Titus Andronicus, well known as the bloodiest and most cannibalistic of the Tragedies, is depicted as a cooking show. The Histories (ex. Henry IV, Richard III) become a football game where kings pass, steal, and run away with the crown. For much of this, Reeves plays the priggish straight man, dictating the ways in which his cohorts can and can’t interpret the texts before them.

It’s a good-natured riff on Shakespeare, a comedy that asks what footing plays that are hundreds of years old can find for today’s audiences. It’s firmly a surface exploration, however, until the second half when all three actors devote their energy to staging, exploring, and lampooning Hamlet. Though firm in their mockery, they don’t hesitate to try and illuminate the text.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) is a cute show. It ruminates on the absurdity of fiction exaggerated for the stage without crossing into the philosophical meanderings of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Still, if lack of depth is its only flaw, it certainly achieves its goal to entertain. It pushes for the value of silliness even against the grim background of tragedy.

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