Monday, July 8, 2013

The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged)—Post5 Theatre—NE Portland

“The Play’s the Thing…”

This production will be in the outdoor courtyard at their location at 850 NE 81st Ave.  It is directed by the company’s co-founder and Artistic Director, Ty Boice and written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield.  It stars Adam J. Thompson, Phillip J. Berns and Brett Wilson.  The show begins at 7:30 pm (“Bard” Garden for refreshments opens at 6:30 pm) and runs weekends through August 4th.  Sunday is pay-what-you-can night. 

One should note that a long-time supporter of this theatre and others is Ronni Lacroute/Willakenzie Estate.  These “Angels” are few and far between and should be applauded for their efforts—Bravo to you!  Check Post5’s website for dates, prices and upcoming events at

This is the brassy, blistering Bard at his bawdy best.  If you are one of the two or three people in the world not familiar with Shakespeare’s works, this play will give you a highly stylized peek at his stories, albeit abbreviated, updated and totally skewed.  Actually, in the first act, they do touch on 36 of his 37-play canon (although a couple of them are only mentioned) and spend a lot of time on Romero & Juliet and…the Scottish Play.  His 154 Sonnets are only mentioned in passing.  And Act II is devoted almost entirely to Hamlet.

The play is offered at a breakneck speed and some of the humor is pretty low-brow (e.g. “butt love” from R&G) and the cast excels in wringing all that can be wrought from their interpretation of this writer.  Why Will S. is so universal is that he had that ability to go from such base humor to the heights of beauty (e.g. “a rose is a rose…”), to the depths of despair, e.g. Lear longing for his departed “fool” and then to the contemplative, e.g. “What a piece of work is man…” (beautifully delivered  by Wilson, in the play’s only serious moment).  In short, his genius is his ability to speak to all cultures and classes across the ages.  A talent much desired and admired.

The antics of these three actors are, to say the least, super-human.  Not only do they have a clear understanding of the Bard, but are agile enough physically, have a keen understanding of comic timing, able to change from one character/sex/age to another in a split second and keep the order of things straight in their heads.  Talent is key to the success of this show and these three actors have it in spades!

Adam seems to be the straight man, trying mightily to keep things in order and to perform his part with a modicum of seriousness (which only makes it all the more funny).  One of the secrets of good comedy, in my opinion, is to do it straight or seriously.  Lee Marvin told me once that, the secret to playing a good villain, is to play him as if he is the hero.  The same psychology can be applied to comedy.  And Adam seems to understand that, as he tackles old farts, young rascals and fair maidens with equal vigor.  And yet, left alone, without his team-mates, he seems to be at odds with the silence.  A touching portrait of a lonely man in a crowd of strangers.  In short, he needs his team to feel alive and useful.

Berns is the pseudo-scholar, the nerd who purports to knows everything.  He wraps himself in facts and figures to cloak himself from personal feelings and failures.  His ability to slip smoothly and quickly from one character to another is a marvel.  And the ways he has of transforming his agile body and voice successfully, from one persona to another, is also an asset.  I have seen Phillip in many incarnations over the past year and have never been disappointed in a performance of his, many in supporting roles, but he always stands out.

Wilson is the naïve clown, willing to do anything to get attention.  He plays the female roles with complete abandonment but, in a moment of clarity, speaks the speech, “what a piece of work is Man,” with quiet eloquence.  A layered clown without the make-up?  So it seems.  His explosions of energy, that would weary a normal person, seem to be the fodder to recharge his batteries.  All in all, he completes this trio of intrepid adventurers.  They are all part of a team, which creates a persona in itself.  Without each other, they might flounder and fall.  A fitting example of team-work at its best!

And Ty Boice, as the Master of this madcap marathon, must have a mind that is able to keep this maze of tunnels in an understandable order.  This production is not something that can be accomplished by just throwing some actors onstage and charging them to act silly.  There needs to be real people that are performing it, a sense of what they are trying to accomplish and a path to their destination.  Not only has Boice cast it well but he has made sure the balance of the frivolity has a sustained direction and that the characters interact, not only within their individual roles, but as people, too, noting their distinctions.  An expert mix of elements, well-calculated to keep one entertained. 

I highly recommend this show but it does have a fair amount of adult situations in the humor, so might keep that in mind if you are easily offended.  If you do go, tell them Dennis sent you.

Next Season

A couple of departures from Shakespeare promise a more, well-rounded season:

Bon Ton Roulette at the Shakespeare Cafe, written and directed by Elizabeth Huffman (a World Premiere);

Tartuffe by Moliere, directed by the one and only, Tobias Andersen and starring Sam Dinkowitz;

Hamlet, directed by Orion J. Bradshaw;

Titus Andronicus, directed by Sam Dinkowitz;

Love’s Labour’s Lost, directed by Avital Shira;

The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged)—touring production, directed by Cassandra Schwanke;

As You Like It, directed by Ty Boice;

The Last Days by Carlos Cisco.

Also, stayed-tuned for late night shows, Sound & Fury, via HumanBeingCurious Productions from Cassandra Schwanke.

And check out their website for their very reasonable season ticket prices.

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