Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Complete Works of Shakespeare, Abridged—Post 5 Theatre—NE Portland

The Ribald Tales of Willy S.

This three-man raunchy, romp through the ages is written by Adam Long, Jess Winfield and Daniel Singer (and, of course, Mr. S., himself).  It is directed by Cassandra Boice and stars her husband, Ty and Chip Sherman and Alex Klein.  It is playing at their space at 900 NE 81st Ave. through June 28th.  (Parking can be a problem, as it is neighborhood streets, so get their early or take alternate transportation.)  For more information, go to their site at

This is probably the fourth rendering of this play I’ve seen over the past several months.  Post 5 itself did an earlier one directed by Ty Boice (5’s Artist Director), then OCT’s Young Professionals Company did a family version of one, then the film, which stars one of the original writers.  Strangely, every production I’ve seen seems like a different show, so great latitude is given as to what the company itself can add to the show.

It is opened by Sherman, who then introduces a purported scholar, Klein, who then has the third member of the cast, Boice, come onstage from the audience.  The premise of the show is that these three, tireless thespians, are to present the great works of Shakespeare in about 90 minutes.  Of course, great liberties will be taken as to what is presented, how it is presented and thus, the added title, “Abridged,” very abridged, I might add.

The concentration during the First Act is on Romeo and Juliet and then on Titus… as a cooking show, “the Gory Gourmet,” hosted by a famous chef.  MacBeth, er, the Scottish Play, is spoken in the tradition of the rolling R’s of that sect.  Othello, the Moor, (no, not a story about boat landings) is done in Rap, once they discover that he was black, er, African-American, er, African-Italian.  His histories, King John to Henry VIII, are quickly routed as a sports contest.

And they touch on the comedies, even giving a nod to one that has questionable parentage, Two Noble Kinsmen or, as they put it, T-Mobile Kinsmen.  I think you can see from this, the tenor of their prostrations and frustrations.  And one member of the troupe won’t have anything to do with presenting Coriolanus because of the suggestive nature of the second part of his name.  Yes, the show does get down and dirty, so is not for anyone easily offended.

After doing what they think is the whole canon in about an hour they discover they have forgotten perhaps the most important of his shows, Hamlet.  So the second act is concentrated on that play, with Klein as the “Great Dane,” and the other two as the myriad of other characters.  Of course, there are very different takes on this play, such as the breaking down of Ophelia’s layers of being, consisting of the Ego, the Super Ego and the Id, with a huge assist by the audience.

Then, there is the re-enactment of the murder scene by the Players, in this case, finger puppets (and what the shark from Jaws does to one of the puppets is definitely X-rated).  There is the famous fight scene, but this time done with light sabers, courtesy of Star Wars.  The only touching point from all this mayhem is a poignant rendition of “What a piece of work is Man…” by Klein and nicely underplayed.  But it ain’t over yet, folks, as they attempt the play in 90 seconds…and then backward.  Wonder why they didn’t try it sideways but…ooops, don’t want to give them any more fodder for their antics.  (Also, wonder why it’s never done by three women…just a thought.)

These three clowns should be exhausted by the end of the show and they got a well-deserved, standing ovation.  If they were The Three Stooges, Sherman would be Moe, Klein would be Larry and Boice, Curly.  They are all excellent comic actors, Boice is the acknowledged butt of many gags (note their toilet humor in R&J with the phrase “butt love”); Klein the somewhat more studious of the trio, or pseudo-studious; and Sherman, the leader of the pack, with his lithe, dancer’s body and movements.

I quite liked this version, directed by Mrs. Boice, but it does get a hard R for content.  But, damn-it, it is funny.  Boice was also involved with directing The Tempest, playing Lady Macbeth and writing Therapy Hunger and is very talented in all these areas.  She succeeds in all three and I’m sure we’ll not be seeing the last of her.  Hopefully she’ll get a chance to immerse herself in her writing later this summer, as her husband plays the lead in Angels In America, Parts I & II at the Intiman Theatre in Seattle.

I recommend this show but it is very adult, so be warned.  If you do choose to go, tell them Dennis sent you.

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