COMPLETE WORKS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (ABRIDGED)
by Adam Long, Daniel Singer
and Jess Winfield
Arts Club, Granville Island
November 25-January 8
$27.50 - 35.50
The award-winning local company, Rock Paper
Scissors, is well known for their partly scripted, partly improvised
Theatresports-like comedy. And what could be a better vehicle
for them—talented comic actors riffing on Shakespeare’s
famous stuff, condensing his 37 lengthy, complex plays into a
couple of hours. It seems like a slam-dunk. But this production
is more like the current edition of Vince Carter and the Raptors:
a few good ideas and some spectacular individual moves can’t
quite salvage an uneven, uninspired effort.
Toby Berner, David C. Jones and Brad
MacNeil play all the parts in faux-Elizabethan garb. It’s
funny watching these burly guys race around in codpieces and,
in the case of Jones who plays
most of the women, bad comic wigs, but the pace is never as frantic
or funny as it should be. There are far too many long stretches
where they casually chat with the audience to set up a gag with
a minimal payoff. I was surprised how boring it was to hear them
talk about how boring it is when Shakespeare is taught in school.
Some of the script changes are clever.
Romeo says, “Call
me but love and…” Juliet interrupts: “Call
me what? Butt love?” Or the Nurse: “Men are all dissemblers.
They take things apart and reassemble them.” And a few
of the short skits are hilarious—Titus
Andronicus as a
cooking show, Macbeth in heavy Scottish accents, the white guys’ rap
Othello. But even while I was laughing at the latter two I was
thinking how familiar those routines are. Titus is one of the
few truly original, radically imaginative gags in the show. A
lot of the first act feels like retread Bob and Doug Mackenzie.
The second act, all Hamlet, resembles an extended Wayne and Schuster
skit with an audience-participation segment in the middle.
The three guys are clearly talented
comedians and much of the opening night audience seemed to
be having a great time. But
ultimately it felt tired to me, as if they’d already been
doing the show for too long. I found myself admiring two things
near the end. Berner’s performance as Hamlet—not
their send-up of the play but his straight reading of some of
the famous lines. And Laertes’ funny hat. That was my evening
in a nutshell.