“The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged)” is- you guessed it- a play that encompasses every single work that Shakespeare wrote condensed into one evening of entertainment. That’s 15 comedies, eleven histories and 11 tragedies presented in just over 90 minutes with three actors. This is a play that requires absolute dedication and a 100% commitment from all involved; you either go big or you go home.
Lucas Kwan Peterson steals the show with his deadpan deliveries and unapologetic naïveté. His portrayal of several of the female characters is hilarious and his parts in “Hamlet” are truly memorable. Mike Niedzwiecki does a great job as the pre-eminent Shakespearean scholar who slowly falls apart and reveals himself as a fraud after his breakdown from a “lighting malfunction” during Hamlet’s famous “To be, or not to be” speech. Eric Bloom rounds out the cast providing a grounding presence.
Madeline Keller and Ann Marie Tullo, costume designer and props master respectively, do an outstanding job with the multitude of costumes and props that fly on and off the stage at a dizzying speed. They are able to provide just enough to tell the story without unnecessarily slowing down the pacing with intricate costume changes or cumbersome props. Jen Bloom and Jeremy Swain’s set design is reminiscent of a child’s playground with its bright colors and facades and just tacky enough to match the farce on stage perfectly.
Unfortunately, despite the exceptional talent on stage, this production does fall flat in places. The script itself has inherent lulls in between the zany madness and comedy. If these lulls are not powered through they become black holes sucking all of the energy off the stage and killing the pacing. This production falls into every one of those pitfalls. So instead of these lulls providing the audience with a chance to catch their breath and recuperate for the next bit of hilarity, they become moments to check and see what time it is, and wonder what kind of wine will be served at the snack bar at intermission. This production has bits that will make you laugh so hard you’ll cry, but it’s the transitions in between those bits that keep this production from being truly great.
*Coverage provided for the Culver City News