Fall Play Review

Evan Hugge '23

Hamlet with Southern accents. Titus Andronicus as a cooking show. Plastic boats. This may sound like a fever dream, but it’s really the recently performed fall play, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged/Revised/Again). I had heard rumors of this production’s hilarity, so as a crusading journalist, I fashioned myself a press pass out of construction paper and a lanyard I stole from an unnamed faculty member and entered the theater for what I assumed would be the most enjoyable 100 minutes of my life. I was not disappointed.

The first thing that the audience must know about this production is that the fourth wall is more like the fourth chain-link fence. In many ways, the entire theater, audience seating and all, is the actors’ stage, and the audience members are as much a part of the play as the actors themselves. The second thing to know is that The Complete Works (as I shall be referring to the play from now on, unless I need to inflate my word count) is an incredibly physical play, a veritable cardio session on the stage. There is sword fighting, football, and what seemed to me an excessive amount of screaming and running around. But hey…

The final thing that you must know is that there is seldom a dull moment in the entire play. When you enter the theater, you must throw out everything you know about Shakespeare: the tedious monologues, archaic vocabulary, and perplexing plotlines (well, maybe not that last one). You will spend a night laughing and crying and everything in between, and come away convinced that–dare I say it–Shakespeare can even be fun.

The Complete Works starts with the entrance of our two narrators, played by Asher Sharp and Thomas Rempe, who introduce the premise of the play, which is, if you haven’t guessed already, to perform every single one of Shakespeare’s works in two acts. From here the actors jump straight into a parody of Romeo and Juliet, and then into the aforementioned rendition of Titus Andronicus as a cooking show. A confused actor played by Cameron Nelson then brings out some plastic boats for his performance of Othello, seemingly unaware of what “moor” means. Later the entire corpus of Shakespeare’s histories is condensed into a game of American football, and the events of Macbeth are related in truly atrocious Scottish accents. This is just the first act, ladies and gentlemen. 

The second act is devoted entirely to Shakespeare’s longest and most dreaded play: Hamlet. This is the crux of The Complete Works, the pinnacle of theater, and the cast does not disappoint Theo Miller’s performance as Hamlet (from Denmark, Mississippi), and Charlie Swearngin’s emotional portrayal of Ophelia represent drama at its best. Mrs. Allee briefly steps in to convey Ophelia’s grief, and the audience is urged to condemn the Danish patriarchy. The production then comes to end, with the cast performing Hamlet backwards just to show off. 

It was all rather confusing, I suppose, but I had some good laughs throughout the night. Much to their credit, the brilliant actors took what is supposed to be the bane of any English student’s existence and turned it into a face-paced, action-packed, absurdly funny work of art. And believe me, I’m a theater critic, so everything I say must be right. I give this play four To Be or not To Be’s out of five.