Usurpers unite! 'Shakespeare (abridged)' bounds into GCP

Ed Mackay, Dan Christophy and Jerry Brewington in the Gainesville Community Playhouse Second Stage presentation of "The Complete Works of Shakespeare Abridged."

MICHAEL C. WEIMAR/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, January 27, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 27, 2005 at 12:11 a.m.
As a veteran audience member who once found himself flapping across stage in an effort to get Ophelia to scream with proper enthusiasm, I can tell you this: Beware the ides of January.
That is to say, the farce opening Friday at Gainesville Community Playhouse relies as much on unsuspecting theater patrons as it does on the wickedly funny script about three bumbling schleps determined to cram Shakespeare's complete canon into a mere two acts.
"The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)," which enjoyed successful runs in New York and London, pays homage to The Bard while infesting his work with slapstick and irreverence. If one listens carefully enough, you can actually hear Shakespeare spinning across ye olde pond.
This manic, three-man show is a high-energy exercise in questionable taste, a world where literature's ghosts are either dudes in drapes or socks on swords. On this stage, King Lear earns a penalty flag, Othello's tale is rapped by "honkies" and the doomed Juliet wears a Gator cap and is praised for her "true booty - er, beauty."
Fuzzy-wuzzy puppets reveal the dark secrets of "Hamlet," while Capt. James T. Kirk and Godzilla make cameos.
The play's mission? "Spread the holy word of The Bard to the masses," according to the more-fiery-than-brimstone intro by actor Bobby McAfee, who embraces a "future where manly men wear tights."
An "Amen" or two follow. After that, no one is safe.
There is no refuge behind a fourth wall, as McAfee, Jake Seymour and Ken Foote tromp through - and even outside - GCP's temporary digs in Northwood Shopping Center. The small stage is near floor level, allowing the actors to mix, mingle, flirt and tamper with innocent theatergoers.
The second-stage location is the theater's home until its new facility is built along NW 16th Boulevard. The storefront is a bit restricting for musicals and bigger productions. But, noted Assistant Director Mary Thomson, it's perfect for a three-man farce so physical and raucous, it demands a three-man understudy cast in case, uh, "something happens."
In any case, understudies Ed McKay, Jerry Brewington and Dan Christophy will give the romp a go as the primary players on Feb. 2 and 9.
"Shakespeare (abridged)" was written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield, founders of the Reduced Shakespeare Company, which made this show a cult hit in London's West End.
The play festers with pop-culture references and requires the actors to be quick on their feet, which, by the way, are squeezed into Converse high-tops.
"Although the show does have a script, it is very loose and encourages improvisation. Needless to say, everyone took full advantage of this opportunity," noted Director Patricia A. Thomson, who, strangely, is no relation to her assistant.
"Shakespeare (abridged)" is a wild, slightly naughty offering that plunges into a weekend already marked by Timothy Leary's White House-bound head, Camper Van Beethoven, The Fab Four and the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire (also featuring men in tights).
But this play, quite frankly, may be the only show that boldly proclaims: "We're much funnier when people bring flasks!"
  • A WEEKEND TO BURY ME: This weekend is bigger than me. Bigger than all of us, really. There are so many worthy events, I ran out of reporters and room weeks ago. Every time the phone rang with another cool show, I shrieked and twitched like that Tweak kid from "South Park."
    Just know this: Today's Scene calendar is an essential key to an artsy weekend like no other. Of particular note, the Glenn Miller Orchestra plays Sunday at the Performing Arts Center at P.K. Yonge, David Copperfield brings his illusions back to the Phillips Center Sunday, the Gainesville Chamber Orchestra celebrates movie music, The British Invasion raises funds for UF culture and political satirist Dave Lippman (shadowed by his alter-ego "George Shrub") performs a Counter-Intelligence Cabaret at the Matheson Museum.
    That's not even scratching the surface; the concerts alone this weekend could fill a phonebook, and, certainly, don't forget about downtown's Art Walk on Friday night.
    This cultural calendar is a good thing, of course. Enjoy it. Savor it, actually. In the meantime, I'll be curled up under my desk, twitching and yelping every time the phone rings.
    But, hey, you have fun, OK?
  • OSCAR TIME: In the midst of the madness comes the Academy Awards, which means it's time for Scene's big, ole honkin' Oscar contest. We'll award gobs of movie passes from Regal Cinemas to the winners (first, second and third). Make your picks and send in the entry form. In the event of a tie (such as last year, when every human boldly predicted a "Lord of the Rings" sweep), we'll pick winners from the earliest postmarks. If that still boils down to a tangle of ties, entries with correct answers and first-day postmarks are tossed into a hat.
    Sorry folks, three winners only this year. Winners will be notified the day after the Oscars - Monday, Feb. 28.
    Dave Schlenker can be reached at 374-5045 or
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