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Fringe Festival : Stage Reviews : 'Complete Shakespeare' Complete Fun

September 24, 1987|ROBERT KOEHLER

"The Complete Works of William Shakespeare"? In one hour? By some outfit that callself The Reduced Shakespeare Co.? We know that brevity is the soul of wit, but this is ridiculous.

Ridiculously nutty. And foolish. And original. (It closed Wednesday night at the Stardust Studio in Hollywood.) Watching Jess Borgeson, Adam Long and Daniel Singer commit themselves to the impossible is like watching a fellow dance while gunshots dart at his heels. Knock 'em dead, or die.

The show's bookends are a frantic "Romeo and Juliet" (Singer plays him with a rose in his mouth, Long plays her with a monstrous wig) and a "Hamlet" (accent on ham). The encore with "Hamlet" in fast forward, then faster forward, then--most deliciously--in ultra-fast reverse .

In between, they compact the histories to a football game. (The Tudors win, and King Lear is ruled off the field as the fictitious character.) They compress the comedies into one reading. Why not? the trio asserts. Recycling four standard plots in 14 plays is kind of silly. Besides, they add, tragedies are funnier. These guys are clowns, but they have their opinions.

How they get through the remaining tragedies would tickle every student who's ever squirmed through dry classroom Shakespeare. Borgeson, Long and Singer sometimes don't know when to rest between the pratfalls, but they absolutely know what they're sending up.

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