(Wednesday, Oct. 6) Lansing Community College’s production of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)” is nothing if not a crowd-pleaser. The play breaks the fourth wall and actively involves the audience; the audience at Saturday evening’s performance didn’t take long to warm up to the format.
As the title indicates, the play is a condensed presentation of all of the works of Shakespeare in less than two hours. The script allows for a great deal of improvisation,
and director John Lennox and his cast took full advantage of each opportunity. Local and personal references are worked in, personalizing the experience for the audience.
A great example of this occurs when the cast addresses “Othello.” The all-white cast wrings their hands with embarrassment as they explain that Moors are Africans, which obviously none of them are. “I’m from Dansville,” a line that could elicit a laugh in many circumstances, becomes even more hilarious here. As further evidence of their whiteness, the cast displays a complete lack of rhythm as they attempt to present a rap-music summary of “Othello.”
The play was written for a cast of three men, an element with which Lennox took liberties. He added a fourth character, played by Tod Humphrey, as well as cast a woman — Kelley McNabb — in one of the roles. Humphrey shines as he acts as a television commentator for the football game that serves as a demonstration of all of the history plays, but at other times he is simply relegated to sitting passively in a semi-throne onstage.
Lennox is a master of stage combat, yet there is little swordplay here. Instead, he and fight director Scott Schultz have peppered the show with pratfalls, gut-punches and wince-inducing assaults to the testes.
Despite the focus of the play being on Shakespeare’s works, one of the funniest bits involves a chase scene, played out via security cameras projected onto the backdrop, as Tobin Bates tries to bring McNabb back to the theater to complete the second act. To say much about the abuse he endures would be a major spoiler. Suffice to say, one will never think of Ronald McDonald or lumberjacks in the same way.
McNabb brings a feminine touch to the work, especially when given the opportunity to play catty as a female audience member comes close to besting her Crazy Ophelia scream. It’s also nice to see a female actor often best the males physically: McNabb is no wallflower.
The cast is fully committed to the goofiness of the script. Kenneth Glynn’s portrayal of Romeo as played by Keanu Reeves is dead-on. Bates, in the role of Hamlet, brings a Shatner-esque quality to his portrayal of Hamlet.
The script is a bit uneven, as the entire first act encompasses all of the Bard’s work except “Hamlet,” which is then the focus of the entire second act. The work drags at other times, yet the cast gamely moves on. This ain’t Shakespeare … oh, wait, it sort of is. And goofy good fun at that.
‘The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)’
Lansing Community College Theatre LCC Black Box Theatre, Room 168, Gannon Building 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 8 and Saturday, Oct. 9; 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 10 $10 general admission; $ 5 students faculty and alumni (517) 483-1018 www.lcc.edu/hpa/events