Hoboken’s Mile Square Theatre has moved its 2021 season outdoors to the scenic amphitheater at Sinatra Park, where (in conjunction with the Hoboken Business Alliance), the company is now presenting “The Complete Works Of William Shakespeare (Abridged) [Revised],” a hilarious three-character romp through the Bard’s works.
Dan Domingues, Aaron Parker Fouhey and Andres Robledo use their real names as they play the actors (one a supposed “preeminent Shakespearean scholar”) who provide nearly nonstop laughs lampooning the most famous comedies, tragedies and histories in the English language (although the Latinx cast does occasionally lose its cool and spout off in Spanish).
This is not your high school English teacher’s Shakespeare. This is “Romeo and Juliet” through “Hamlet” (with quick stops at the other 35 plays) by way of the Three Stooges, Monty Python, Benny Hill, “Jaws,” “Psycho” and a dozen other pop culture references. Robledo plays the female parts in a cheesy wig with lots of vomiting (the show can get a little gross), using the same screeching falsetto for Ophelia, Juliet, Lady Macbeth, Cressida and others. And like the original plays, gore, violent death, sex, sexual innuendo and coarse language abound, making the production a tad inappropriate for pre-teens (although there were quite a few in the opening night audience, and MST recommends the show for “Age 7 and above”).
The first act — which starts with a 12-minute take on “Romeo and Juliet” and then steamrolls through most of the other plays — moves faster than the second, which seems a bit padded with unnecessary and not terribly funny audience participation. But the payoff comes when the company deconstructs “Hamlet,” complete with sock puppet actors doing the famous “play within a play,” Hamlet’s duel to the death with Laertes, and Gertrude’s grisly end from drinking the poisoned cup meant for Ophelia.
“To be or not to be” funny, that is the question — and “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) [Revised]” answers in the affirmative over and over and over again. But even with all the pantomime, slapstick, comedic wordplay and farce, cast members grab opportunities to show off their acting chops and deliver the beauty of Shakespeare’s poetry as it was meant to be heard.
And it is poetry, because it’s not just the words. Actors also need to capture the rhythm. Domingues, Fouhey and especially Robledo nail it when they get a chance, however brief those moments may be.
MST’s production of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) (Revised)” — originally written and performed by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield in the ’80s, then revised with more modern references for its 20th anniversary — was directed by Andrew Baldwin and the company’s artistic director, Chris O’Connor, who has shown a deft grasp of comedic timing in other productions. The small set that has been erected at Sinatra Park, complete with exquisite lighting and surrounded by a panorama of the Manhattan skyline, works brilliantly, allowing for dozens of exits, entrances and quick costume changes.
Remaining performances of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) [Revised]” are Sept. 19, 23-26 and 29-30 and Oct. 1-2 at 8 p.m. Admission is free, but reserved tickets are recommended. Walk-up seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information and reservations, visit milesquaretheatre.org.
Patrons are invited to make donations by texting “MST” to 44-321.
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