When you think of a night of rip-roaring fits of laughter, maybe a comedy club performance comes to mind. Or a good (back when there was such a thing) Will Ferrell movie. Or maybe even a local school board meeting.
You probably don’t think ‘William Shakespeare.’
Although The Bard is certainly well-known in scholarly circles for his comedies as well as his tragedies, modern audiences wouldn’t expect to split their knickers in riotous laughter at a performance of his many works.
(Why modern audiences would be wearing knickers is another matter entirely, but let’s leave undergarment choice to individual discretion.)
That’s exactly what happened to me (the laughter, not the knickers thing) at a preview performance of the Sherburne Music Theatre Society’s “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” at Hamilton’s Palace Theater Wednesday evening. The venerable community theater group is celebrating its 40th birthday this summer, and the first of its performances take place tonight and Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12 at the door.
Shakespeare’s that funny? Surely you jest, I hear you say. Jest I do, often, but the key word in the title of this weekend’s show is “Abridged.” The show’s cast is made up of three insanely talented young men – two of whom just graduated from Sherburne-Earlville – Adrian Enscoe, Joe Mettler and Tyler Rundell. The trio basically play themselves on stage, having formed the “Slightly Shorter Shakespeare Company” to squeeze all of prolific author’s plays into a two-hour cram session.
And they do so brilliantly. While it helps to have somewhat of a Shakespearean background (I’m still trading off that 11th grade English course -- thanks, Miss Snedeker!), you by no means have to be a scholar to enjoy the humor in “The Complete Works ...” What the playwrites have done is put a contemporary spin on the ancient works, and the humor and energy on stage will engage any theater-goer – even one whose only exposure to Shakespeare was that Leonardo DiCaprio movie.
I’ve seen the play produced by the “real” Reduced Shakespeare Company a couple times, actually. The professional troupe has performed versions of it twice on the Arts Council stage in Norwich. My propensity to gush about home-grown talent notwithstanding, this trio of young men can give the pros a run for their money any day.
While all three are veterans of director Colleen Law-Tefft’s S-E high school productions, I’ve never seen them in a show that showcases their talents this precisely. Enscoe and Mettler shared an amiable chemistry in last spring’s “The Importance of Being Earnest,” while Rundell was a minor character. Apparently throwing him in the mix as a co-lead is the formula for success. The three guys obviously didn’t write this play, but they perform it as though they had. Their comedic timing and easy rapport totally makes you believe this is three friends staging, albeit rather poorly, a frenetically rushed compilation of Shakespeare’s works. And works, it does.
I’m sitting here trying to think of a great Shakespeare quote to wrap this up brilliantly, and all that comes to mind at the moment is “Get thee to a nunnery.” In the skewed context of the SMTS show, that works too.