“Shakespeare (Abridged)” brings The Bard down to size

The Complete Works of Shakespeare: $40. Seeing all 37 plays crammed into a 90-minute production: priceless.

On Sept. 9 and 10, the indomitable trio of junior Josh Horowitz and seniors Adam LaSalle and Brian Clemente performed a rollicking open-air rendition of "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)" in the courtyard of Brodie Hall.

Originally written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield, "Shakespeare (Abridged)" is a delightfully irreverent comedy in which three actors (playing themselves) stumble, squabble and bluster their way through Shakespeare's plays.

"Since there was going to be no Black Box show this fall, I wanted to find something that could be done at the beginning of the fall and that could be rehearsed over the summer," Clemente said. "When I read this, I fell in love and knew it had to happen."

Watching the show, it's easy to see where that love came from. The show features "Titus Andronicus" as a cooking show, all of Shakespeare's histories condensed into a pass-the-crown football game, a loopy super-comedy that combines all of Shakespeare's tropes into one performance and a deliciously offensive rap of "Othello."

LaSalle performed one of the best running gags of the show. Since Shakespeare is loaded with female characters who die violently, LaSalle ran out on stage at numerous parts in the show and dropped dead – after "vomiting" profusely over the audience members who sat in the dangerous first rows.

After the third instance of this, Clemente snapped, "You've got this really bizarre notion that all of Shakespeare's tragic heroines wear these really ugly wigs, and vomit on people before they die!"

In a delightfully meta-moment that belonged entirely to this cast, Clemente ranted about LaSalle stealing roles and wearing a goatee that "says ‘I'm a bad person!'" LaSalle retorted that "it says ‘I like jazz!'" and that at least he wasn't always cast as a priest. A hilariously outraged Clemente pointed into the audience at Melanie Blood, professor of English and theater, and screamed that she was the one who always cast him that way.

They proceeded to chase each other through the Brodie building, banging on the windows and yelling at the delighted audience in the courtyard. A hassled Horowitz took the opportunity to call an intermission, which was followed by the highlight of the night: "Hamlet."

LaSalle's floppy, valley girl version of Ophelia was matched in laughs only by Clemente's spandex-clad, outrageously flamboyant Laertes. "I like him because he is so bi-curious," Clemente said of his favorite character.

Horowitz broke into hysterical tears during Hamlet's "to be or not to be" monologue, since he was still emotional over the break-up of John and Kate on TLC's "John and Kate Plus 8" and Lasalle offered a rapid-fire delivery of the "what a piece of work is man" speech.   

After the initial hilarious performance, the actors repeated it twice, faster each time and finished by doing it backward, which led to gems like "Nunnery get thee to a!" and LaSalle's Ophelia un-drowning herself.

The cast members worked off one another perfectly, Horowitz often playing the oblivious straight man to the increasingly antagonistic LaSalle and Clemente. Whether they were playing characters or themselves, their comedic timing was flawless and their banter was undeniably natural.

Their unique and uproarious rendition of "The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged)" is likely to be quoted in dorms and classrooms for weeks to come.

Additional reporting contributed by Michael Schwartz, staff writer.