The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged, which opened at Idaho Shakespeare last week, isn't exactly a play in the traditional sense. Yes, there are actors reciting a script on a stage and there are lights and such, but it's more of like a sketch or variety show than a traditional play that follows a single narrative thread.
The show features three actors doing their best to make it through all of Shakespeare's works in the space of one play—it includes asides, workshopping and textual criticism. This is no simple feat considering most of Shakespeare's plays often run twice as long as a contemporary full-length.
Results include condensing all of Shakespeare's comedies into one story and a 43-second performance of Hamlet in reverse. That makes the whole show play out like an unusually wordy episode of Saturday Night Live, especially when Titus Andronicus is performed as a cooking show. Samurai Deli, anybody?
The show is immensely entertaining, peppered with jokes about pop culture, the Idaho Legislature and no shortage of fourth-wall blind meta-humor about the audience and The Bard himself. However, without the thread that keeps an audience hooked, the end of the show felt slightly wearying, like it was more of a checklist the performers were racing down than a story. But even with that, it managed to stay funny to the very end because of the quality performances.
The show will runs through Wednesday, July 20. The full calendar of performances can be found here.