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The Arts
07.06.11

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Phaedra
CONNECTION SPEED: The most oft-performed Bard spoof gets an update for the Google generation.

Hark! The Park!

Outdoor Shakespeare alive and revamped

By David Templeton


Despite assumptions to the contrary, there is theater in the park this summer in Sebastopol. When Sonoma County Repertory Theatre folded earlier this year, an immediate effort was made to ensure that its annual two-production festival in Ives Park would continue. The recently formed company Shakespeare Napa Valley (run by Jennifer King, formerly of the Rep) has now established a Sonoma County outreach, staging its shows both in Napa and Sebastopol.

This new configuration kicked off last weekend with a shiny new staging of the unstoppably resilient Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), in which three hapless, underprepared actors (the inspired comedians Dan Saski, Dodds Delzell and Chad Yarish) attempt to stage every last one of the Bard's plays in a single evening, making a merry mess of things in the process.

Here's the best part—this is The Complete Works 2.0.

Yes, just when the beloved 24-year-old show by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield is beginning to seem a tad dated—and definitely, ahem, overperformed (it is easily one of the most oft-staged shows on the planet)—along comes a series of clever updates from the original authors. The revisions are designed, in part, to bridge the gap between the pre-digital, pre-internet 1980s and the iPhone-friendly present. A bit about mixed-up index cards is now a much-funnier spoof of people who do scholarly research on Google. The portion of the show in which the bloody play Titus Andronicus is performed as if by Julia Child is now a less-specific (and even grislier) basic-cable cooking show.

A few rewrites strengthen some of the weaker material from the original version, most prominently when the actors mash all of Shakespeare's comedies into a single epic. In the original version, the actors merely recited the plot. Now, they act it out, with lines misappropriated from the Shakespeare versions. It's much sillier and a whole lot fresher.

Directed by Sharon Winegar, the production is furiously fast-paced (perhaps a little too fast-paced, in some cases, with words rushing past in a blur of near-gibberish), and the number of dazzling quick changes demanded of the cast appears to have doubled. The updated version may offer no new insights into the works of the world's greatest playwright, but with the revision of this beloved spoof, audiences will find plenty of inspiration for laughter.

'The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)' runs Thursday-Sunday through July 17 at Ives Park (7400 Willow St., Sebastopol; 7pm; $20-$25; under 12 free) and July 26-28 at Veterans Memorial Park (Third and Main streets, Napa; 7pm; free). 707.256.7500. www.shakespearenapavalley.org.


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