SPRINGVILLE — “Cut the crap, Hamlet! My biological clock is ticking, and I want babies now!” I finally got to shout this hilarious line—my favorite in the show—in this, the fourth production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) that I’ve seen. Only a play that’s long on hilarity, short on time, and full of audience participation would contain such a line and ask members of the audience to shout it out. This combination of elements makes the script (by Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Winfield), in which all of the works of Shakespeare are performed in one evening, so popular.
Adding to novelty to the show, for me at least, was the fact that Springville Playhouse turned this into a youth production and expanded the cast from three to eleven. These teenage actors threw themselves into the hilarious script without any sort of inhibitions. Springville Playhouse didn’t provide a program, so I can’t credit all of the young people I want, but the cast prominently featured Josh Taylor, Miranda McPherson, and Seth Daybell. Taylor was impressive for his age, enunciating most of his lines well and always speaking loud enough that I could hear him clearly, even in the vast open space of the theater. McPherson was energetic and comfortable on stage as she moved from playing one Shakespeare role to another. Finally, I laughed pretty hard at Seth Daybell’s historically inaccurate biography of Shakespeare, which he delivered well.
On the other hand, most of the cast needed to enunciate their lines better. I had a hard time understanding the Titus Andronicus segment of the play, the Othello rap, and the football game. But the performances in the speeded up Hamlet, the combined comedies, and the opening segments were all much stronger.
Because of the lack of a program, I don’t know who directed this youth production. But he or she nicely incorporated a lot of topical humor into the script. One of my favorite things about this show is the fact that directors are given freedom to add or tweak jokes, which makes each production unique. And with teenagers in the cast, jokes about Justin Bieber, Glee, and other staples of today’s pop culture fit in very well with the production. The stage business that many of the members of the cast engaged in during the opening, when the premise of the show was being explained, was also a nice touch. I wish, though, that the director had staged the football game better (it looked like a mess) and kept some consistency (such as in the same actor vomiting) that’s in the original script’s format.
Another thing I liked about this production was the cute, homemade feel of it. From the costumes to the props (including a plastic golf club used as sword and a rubber chicken in the witches’ scene in Macbeth), everything had a cobbled-together look to it. With some productions this would not be a compliment. But with this script, it’s acceptable.
Springville’s The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) is a funny production that serves the purposes of community theatre: gives local people experience in the performing arts, introduces audience members to scripts, and teaches the play-goers a little bit about the art form. The family and friends of the cast members will likely enjoy what they see. And, who knows—maybe one day Hamlet will cut the crap and treat Ophelia with the respect she needs as a woman.