Amish Acres

Amish Acres® Historic Farm and Heritage Resort is Listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It is America's most complete Amish heritage experience featuring historic interpretation, culinary and performing arts, lodging, and shopping.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Fast. Frenetic. And Fresh.

The fast and frenetic we already knew – “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged),” currently playing on the Second Stage at Amish Acres, has been around for more than three decades, and its manic presentation of the Bard’s life and words is still laugh out loud hilarious.

But time hasn’t stood still, and neither has the show. Even though I’ve seen this show before, as well as purchased and read the script, I’m pretty sure there was no such person as SIRI back in the 90s, nor had anyone heard of Alexander Hamilton, at least as a rapper.
Which is a way of saying even if you’ve seen Complete Works before, you haven’t seen it before. And if you haven’t seen it, you’ve got to see it.

The premise is simple -- preeminent Shakespearean scholar Martin Flowers recruits the formidable Ryan Schisler and the weak-stomached Matthew Springer so that together they can present all the Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies of the Immortal Bard in under ninety minutes.

Each player has a star turn -- Schisler as Romeo, Springer as Juliet, Flowers as Hamlet, but basically everybody plays everything because, as Shakespeare once said (or was it Ferris Buehler?), “Live comes at you pretty fast.”

There are some surprises such as when -- Spoiler Alert -- Ophelia’s corpse is played by an overstuffed dog that sort of looks like Scooby Doo, or when Hamlet begins to treat his knife like a lolly-pop. Actually, the whole play is surprising. Fortunately it’s surprisingly fantastic.
Do they succeed? It depends on how you measure success! They certainly succeed at getting us to laugh, out loud and often. Flowers’ manic insecurity overwhelms his attempts at scholarship. Schisler broods and breeds his way through his intentionally inept portrayals of classic characters, while Springer, who plays the preponderance of female parts with a decidedly weak stomach, is game on, all in, and wit in. (I’m not sure if that last phrase is a real thing, but it ought to be).

The result is a riotous romp through the several classic and not so classic classics. The three agonize how to perform “Othello” without blackface, what to make of any play like “Troilus and Cressida” that features a character with a name like Agamemnon, or how to tell all those history play kings apart without a program. (Fortunately there’s a program!)
And lest you think the stomach churning cooking show parody of Titus Andronicus is over the top, let me assure you that the actual play is far more gory than you’d guess.
Right before the show I mentioned to a family member that it looked like the play would skip the largely unknown Shakespeare collaboration “The Two Noble Kinsmen,” which is not list in the program’s list -- but they didn’t! (They do skip Edward III, Arden of Faversham, The Book of Sir Thomas More, and the additions to The Spanish Tragedy, but then, everybody does, or did, until this year).

The show is ably directed by Rory Dunn. Richard Pletcher is the Executive Producer, Garth Moritz the Production Stage Manager, and, as the program notes, Amber Burgess is “Everything Else.” That everything else seems to include conducting all the backstage costume changes and probably the costumes too.

Box Info: “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” by Adam Long, Jess Winfield, and Daniel Singer, is presented at the Locke Township Meeting Hall’s Second Stage, at Amish Acres, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 PM, Sunday’s at 2:00 PM, through April 9. For tickets and information call 800-800-4942, or go to