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The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) ~ The Little Theatre of Alexandria

Jordan Wright
March 7, 2016
Special to The Alexandria Times

Dave Wright - Photos by Matt Liptak

Dave Wright – Photos by Matt Liptak

If you ignored the word “Abridged” in the title of this comedy, actor Dave Wright is keen to impress it upon you – multiple times while waving a weighty leather-bound collection of The Compete Works of Shakespeare.  You tell yourself, there’s no way three actors can get through all those plays.  But, ah!  There’s the rub.  They do!  Well, sort of, and in ways unexpected.

Joanna Henry takes the helm as director keeping up the lickety-split pace both on- and off stage as the actors race through the aisles and at one point leap up on a handrail to deliver a speech.  I won’t be enumerating how many, or which, roles each actor portrays, since I lost count before the end of the first act as the quick-change artists morphed into male and female roles.  But the stout-figured Wright, along with the lanky, deer-in-the-headlights wide-eyed, Hans Dettmar and the diminutive Sean g. Byers, who rhapsodizes that “this book will be found in every hotel room in the world”, make up the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s entire cast.  They are keen to remind us that Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets and 37 plays which the actors, nay, comedians, merrily condense into one.  To prove they are up to the challenge, they announce, “We don’t have to do it justice.  We just have to do it!”

Hans Dettmar - Photos by Matt Liptak

Hans Dettmar – Photos by Matt Liptak

Using every trick in the book, the trio combine pratfalls, spoofs, rap lyrics and a ton of crazy props as they speed dial their way through all 37 of the bard’s classics including, but not limited to, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra and of course Macbeth, which they point out to the uninformed, is the one word you can NEVER say in the theater.

To make it more relatable they toss in topical references like The Real Housewives of Potomac to describe a scene in Romeo and Juliet, and call on the recently uttered words of Donald Trump to express the size of a wall, “It’s gonna be huge!”, to keep the lovers apart.  But for the most part the process is achieved through costume changes and hilariously bastardized lines.  Somehow a blow-up dinosaur figures in.  It’s Cliffs Notes on a runaway horse.

Hans Dettmar, Dave Wright, and Shawn g. Byers - Photos by Matt Liptak

Hans Dettmar, Dave Wright, and Shawn g. Byers – Photos by Matt Liptak

Straight out of the blocks the audience roars at the blaze of high voltage activity.  It’s utterly contagious, more so when a member is plucked from their seat and invited to participate in some of their shenanigans.  How they squeeze, scrunch and slap together all these comedies tragedies and histories, is a wonder in and of itself.  In one particularly silly scene Punch and Judy are employed to express Ophelia’s plight.  The frustrated Ophelia cries out, “Cut the crap, Hamlet, my biological clock is ticking and I want babies now!”, which pretty much (colloquially) sums up her dismay.  And this comic turn from King Lear which is realized as a football game, “quarterback gives it to the hunchback”.

To borrow from Hamlet’s old chatterbox, Polonius, “Brevity is the soul of wit”.  And these three have it down to a science.

Highly recommended for a night of pure, unadulterated (Oh, alright, there is some adulteration. Massive amounts, if you will.) hilarity.

Through March 19th at The Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe Street. For tickets and information call the box office at 703 683-0496 or visit

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