Shakespeare play combines classics with comedy


Published: Friday, June 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, June 1, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

Forget what you know about Shakespeare.

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Robert Smith, from left, Bryant Smith and Matthew Lindsay pose for a promotional photo to promote their play "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged," opening today. The 90-minute play combines 37 of Shakespeare's works, performed with a Dane Cook flavor.

JARRETT BAKER/Special to The Sun

Picture the playwright's classic lines flavored with the style of Dane Cook.

Your result: "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged."

Beginning today, this 90-minute comedy combines 37 of Shakespeare's works to be performed at the hands of three male actors.

The play, presented by the University of Florida School of Theatre and Dance, is a parody of all Shakespeare's works, especially the tragedies, said director Kevin Marshall.

It's more entertaining to poke fun at the tragedies than the comedies, he said.

Since the play is based on Shakespeare's greatest hits, audiences who are familiar with his works will enjoy it just as much as those who aren't, Smith said.

While there's plenty of classic Shakespeare lines twisted into this modern-day rendition, improvisation and audience participation characterize the show.

One audience member will even have the chance to play Ophelia from "Hamlet" in part of the show, though the whole audience is involved in some aspect of the play, Marshall said.

Despite having almost 400-year-old roots, the play features plenty of references to contemporary pop culture and political jokes, ranging from conservative to liberal views, he said.

"We're part of an equal opportunity offender here," Marshall said, smiling. "We don't want to leave anyone out."

Audiences can also look forward to "Titus Andronicus" performed as a cooking show and "Othello" transformed into a Beastie Boys-style rap.

Show times are 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays, both 7:30 p.m. and midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, with matinees at 2 p.m. on Sundays. The show runs through Aug. 12.

Reserved tickets for the show are $9 for UF students, faculty, staff and senior citizens with a valid ID and $13 for the general public.

The cast will put on 29 performances of the Shakespearian comedy, with select midnight showings offering a spicier take on Shakespeare. These versions, Marshall said, are an attempt to entice UF's younger crowd.

Regardless, each fast-paced performance represents an opportunity to introduce students to live theater, he said.

The entire cast is comprised of six men, though the actors will be on rotation, with only three appearing in each performance.

All actors will essentially test out their drag queen abilities by undertaking both male and female roles, switching between men's and women's costumes. Marshall said it's his favorite part of working on the play.

Robert Smith, a third-year theater performance graduate student, is one of the actors appearing in the production. He said he enjoys having the ability to make the play his own.

The original script of the play was written more than 20 years ago by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield.

It beckons the actors to put a modern spin on Shakespeare, Smith said. He achieves this with several of his own jokes and references, ranging from Jerry Springer to Dr. Phil.

"It's to get modern audiences to enjoy Shakespeare, even if they hate it," he said.

With audience interaction throughout the show, each performance is unique. Part of the excitement is not knowing how each audience will react, Smith said.

Rachel Wyle, stage manager for the play and a third-year theater and art history major, said even though she sees the show nearly every day, she still finds herself laughing.

Each performance of the show will be held in the Black Box Theatre at the Nadine McGuire Theatre and Dance Pavilion, which holds about 120 seats. The set pieces are also quite minimal, allowing the actors to completely captivate the audience in a more involved and intimate atmosphere, she said.

The play itself is similar to seeing a great comedy show, Wyle said.

"It's not theatrical or dramatic," she said. "It's one of the better things to see and do this summer."

For tickets or more information, call the University Box Office at (352) 392-1653 or visit www.willyabridged.com.

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