LIMA — “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged),” which opened Friday night at Encore Theatre, was like CliffsNotes on a caffeine buzz: a wacky, out-of-control lesson in literature in two acts.
Now, I’m a fan of the bard and was a little leery of someone messing around with the classics, but what the heck, it worked. The play takes all of Shakespeare’s works and, in just two acts, does them all. Or at least mentions them all. Yeah, you read that right — all of them. That’s 37 total, not including the sonnets. William was a busy boy. So, like I said before, it’s a wacky caffeine buzz adventure in literature.
And it was done with only three cast members. You read that right, too. Mike Tarbet, Jeff Kerr and Dan Stanowick were nonstop in their antics. Hats off to them. The first act included “Romeo and Juliet,” “Othello” and, oh no, they forgot “Hamlet”! It’s OK. Act two covers that one, with some hilarious audience participation included. The three did a fine job of juggling the comedy, literary references and the unknown audience factor. And Dan, bless you and your energy. Talk about a caffeine buzz.
Since this is a comedy, the three actors do bumble and tumble through the bard’s work. Lines are jumbled, current day references are thrown in willy-nilly, the costumes are, um, unique, but it’s all right. Even as a fan of Shakespeare, I wasn’t offended. I bet even old Bill himself would see the humor in Encore’s production of “Abridged.” Parody is indeed a form of flattery, and the Encore cast and crew — including director Missy Keller — did justice to Shakespeare. One word of caution, however.
Even though this play is essentially based on classic literature, it does have a bit of bawdiness to it, so if you’re easily offended by men dressing as women, lewd jokes and whatnot, don’t go. No, I’m kidding. Go. Enjoy. It’s all in good fun, and you just might learn something about Shakespeare — in a weird, wacky CliffsNotes sort of way.