Review: ‘The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)’ at The Little Theatre of Alexandria

It is funny! Building from a witty start to a raucous, hilarious ending, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) at The Little Theatre of Alexandria offers a joyful send-up of all the plays of the most well-known playwright in the English language. Playing on the recognition that the audience knows of some of the plays and assuming that the language may have often been difficult to engage with for many of us, this play overcomes the bombastic in the Bard by ridiculing some of the most famous characters and stories in literature.

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

Director Joanna Henry has coordinated a terrific team of designers and found a comically-talented trio of actors to pull off this laugh-fest. LTA has a fantastic volunteer base to pull from for productions and their acting talent pool runs deep. The three-member cast each brings in acting talents which are used to great success with rapid-fire quips and multiple quick costume and character changes.

Dave Wright acts like a host, offering the premise of the show at the opening. His comfort with a Master of Ceremonies role, finesse with improv and direct interaction with the audience are beautiful to behold.

Hans Dettmar has an ease with the language that is very impressive. Frequently, his mastery of the words knocked me out, and the joy he brought to physical comedy and silly wigs was a hoot.

Shawn g. Byers does a terrific job near the top of the show setting the relevance of Shakespeare for a modern audience. When his speech becomes impassioned, his delivery takes on that of an evangelical fire-and-brimstone preacher and the audience is urged to shout out, “Amen.”

There are too many favorite moments to list, but many of them are due to great design and production choices which, when aligned with strong acting choices, create chaos… I mean, hilarity. Thank you, Joanna Henry.

I entreat you, behold the spectacle. Paned slops and breeches, trunkhose, or pumpkin pants are names given to the style of poufy shorts worn by men over hose in Shakespeare’s day. Grant Kevin Lane’s take on these is among the fun costume choices he makes, relying less on authenticity than referential humor. The set design, also by Lane, could easily have passed for a generic Shakespeare set, were it not for play titles and quotes written on most of the surfaces. The sandy color is suggestive of castle walls and the levels and triangular columns offered great options for a very evocative lighting design by Jeffrey Scott Auerbach.

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

I beg of you, behold the valor. Stage combat, choreographed by Steve Lada was notable. The hand-to-hand, knife, and sword fights seem less realistic than hysterical, achieving the slapstick style for this show. Another plus is that the night I went, I didn’t notice any of the actors actually die.

I warn you, don’t miss the cacophony of your fellow audience hooting, cackling, and shrieking in delight. You will want to be amongst them.

Running Time: Two hours, with one 15-minute intermission.

ShakespeareDCMetroHorizontalAds (1)

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) plays through March 19, 2016 at the Little Theatre of Alexandria-600 Wolfe Street, in Alexandria, VA. For tickets, buy them at the door, by calling the box office at (703) 683-0496, or purchase them online.

RATING: FIVE-STARS-82x1555.gif