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Review: Everything old is new again at Idaho Shakespeare Festival

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Brevity may be the soul of wit, and a trio of festival players finds a wealth of humor in “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)”

BY DANA OLAND – © 2011 Idaho Statesman

Published: 06/13/11

When I heard the Idaho Shakespeare Festival would produce “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged),” I gave a little groan. I’ve seen it.

Producing Artistic Director Charlie Fee, with his penchant for bringing back festival favorites, programmed the work in 1996, 1999, 2001 and 2005. Now he’s brought it back, again, for the festival’s 35th anniversary season.

So, then, why am I laughing? The source of my mirth is this: Tom Willmorth, Joe Conley Golden and M.A. Taylor — three of the funniest guys you’ll see work on this or any other stage. In their hands, the show works.

The show opened on a blustery Saturday night, which made it a little hard to hear Willmorth. The show ended with a little rain, which only chased a few people from their seats.

With as many times as ISF has produce this show, it is a surprise that this is the first time these three have performed it together.

M.A. Taylor*, Tom Willmorth*, Joe Conley Golden*

Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield wrote this clever deconstruction of Shakespeare’s canon in 1987 for their Reduced Shakespeare Company, which performed parodies of the Bard’s plays. It takes you through many of his best works, lingering on the ones that make for the best comedy, which just happen to be the tragedies. The comedies are treated to an uber-mashup and condensed into one long-winded play.

So you have “Titus Andronicus” as a cooking show, “King Lear” as a cameo in a football-game take on Shakespeare’s histories, and a “Hamlet” that goes both forwards and backwards. There’s enough room in the formula for the three to riff and improvise, so each night is slightly different.

Some of the bits are dated (the character formerly known as Prince, etc.). View those as groaners, like a familiar knock-knock joke or obvious pun. But Willmorth, Golden and Taylor infuse a mix of relevant pop and local culture that freshen things up.

You’ll find more than a few Sarah Palin jokes, a few Tom Luna jabs (Willmorth and Golden are both teachers), some rap, loads of physical comedy and even a few Idaho Shakespeare Festival references to past productions.

And just to remind you that these guys also are well-heeled actors, when Taylor dives into Hamlet’s famous “What a piece of work is man” soliloquy, he more than does it justice.

One of the fun aspects of “Complete Works” is that you’ll actually learn something about Shakespeare and his plays. You don’t need to have seen or read them to get the jokes. Although if you know the plays, the jokes are funnier.

The trio also gets the audience involved in hysterical way — so be prepared to play along — and beware if you sit in the first few rows.

Gage William’s sweet little Globe Theatre-esque set works as a glorified changing room, as the guys dash in and out for costume and wig changes.

They’re helped by a trio of dressers who whip Charlotte Yetman’s Velcro-heavy costumes on and off.

Dana Oland: 377-6442

Click to read full article at Idaho Statesman

Click to see Idaho Statesman’s Photo Gallery of “Complete Works”