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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Thirty years ago in 1987, three American actors and writers, Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jeff Winfield – known as the Reduced Shakespeare Company – wrote and produced a very original idea. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) was presented that year at the famous Edinburgh Festive Fringe to great fanfare and soon after, began a nine year run at the Criterion Theatre in London, England.

The show, directed for Civic Theatre by John Michael Goodson, is a burlesque of sorts, with no fourth wall, employing a trio of actors to present the show directly to, and sometimes with, the audience. That aspect makes The Studio Theatre at Carmel’s Center for the Performing Arts, usually the domain of Actors Theatre of Indiana, the perfect venue for this lively presentation of mayhem and frequently wacky humor.

Civic Complete Works

(from left) Kelsey VanVoorst, Frankie Bolda and Antoine Demmings – the cast of Civic Theatre’s production of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)”.

The show features sketch-savvy actresses Frankie Bolda and Kelsey VanVoorst, and introduces first time stage actor, Antoine Demmings. All three provide the necessary energized personas for the task at hand – 37 plays (plus a brief fly-over of the sonnets) in 97 minutes. The action is a string of routines (or “bits”) glued together by the purported task. Most bits work, some don’t. The script also provides plenty of room for improvisation and references to “news of the day” or current pop culture and, depending somewhat on your political preferences, some ideas which this group has chosen hit the mark squarely.

Regardless of content – the efforts of the actors are unquestionably first rate. There is an obvious cohesion among them which undoubtedly comes from the programming of director Goodson and the cast’s basic hard work. The flow of the show is unstoppable and the trio has sharpened their actions and responses to a fine point. As impressive as the more veteran actresses are, newcomer Demmings more than does himself proud in his debut. (I’ll expect to see more of Mr. Demmings on local stages in the future.)

Set designer Will Tople offers simple function with his attractive barn-like set; the lights designed by Quinten James are as near to a fourth character as lights can be; and Janet and Jennifer Sutton are to be applauded for their amazing collection of various props and notions, which augment Adrienne Conces’ sizable variety of costume pieces.

Bottomline: I think risks taken onstage very often justify the overall results. Such is what I saw here in the sometimes (but not often) unevenness of a nimble and very alive feeling production.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) continues at the Studio Theatre in the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel through April 1. You can get information about the schedule and tickets by calling 317.843.3800 or by logging onto http://www.civictheatre.org .

  • – Photos provided by Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre
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