“But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?” Last month the Outside The Box Performing Arts Festival grabbed headlines for the free concert series, but theatrical and dance performances were also all around. What better way to give the general public access to classical theater than by parody of history’s most famous bard’s entire body of work? “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare [abridged]” or WOWS[A] was originally parodied by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield. We saw it performed by Daniel Berger-Jones, Gabriel Kuttner, and Risher Reddick, and directed by Steven Barkhimer.
This wacky play is scripted with room for improvisation, so every viewing can be different. The standard introduction includes a biography of William Shakespeare, but you soon realize that they are actually mentioning things that Adolf Hitler did. We were able to catch the first act. Can you imagine watching the plot for Romeo and Juliet unfold and indeed be acting out in front of you in less time than it would take to listen to that song “In-A-Gadda-Da-Via”? Picture three guys. One is the narrator and the other two fashioned themselves into every role in gym shorts and light costuming. If you find the traditional 400 year old text to be a bit dusty, you should have seen it reenacted with pop culture and added humor. After all, how many other productions will show the Capulets and Montagues biting their thumbs at each other and then dueling it out via thumb war? Did we mention there’s a blow up doll?
The WOWS[A] script calls for “Titus Andronicus” as a cooking show, “Othello” as a rap song, and a tangled reading of Shakespeare’s comedies with similar plots. The various histories were acted out like an NFL game with a royal crown as the football. Next comes Julius Caesar’s death scene and a cut down version of “Antony and Cleopatra.” “Macbeth” is told in fake Scottish accents and there is a discussion about ketchup and mustard in there. Most versions of this drama debate about the “Shakespeare Apocrypha”. “Coriolanus” is usually skipped over due to the vulgar nature of the word inside the word in the title. As for the sonnets, those are typically written down on a piece of paper and passed around the audience. “Hamlet” is completed with audience participation, sped up and performed backwards, too.
The funny thing about watching “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare [Abridged]” at the Outside the Box festival was that “King Lear” was available to watch just 50 feet away by the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company. Their “ Shakespeare on The Common” summer tradition happened to line up so that Shakespeare could be experienced as a spoof or in a scholarly way.
You may have missed out on “WOWS[A]” and “King Lear,” but there are still free performances of Shakespeare to be found in Boston. The Brown Box Theatre Project will be putting on “The Taming of the Shrew” this week through the end of the month. Check out their performance schedule for details and like them on Facebook for the latest info.