“Why, this is very midsummer madness.” - So said Olivia in Act 3, Scene 4 of “Twelfth Night;” and so will you when you come to River Company’s production of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged” in Edgecomb.
Midcoast theater fans, especially here in the Boothbay Region, know this talented cast – Emily Sue Barker, Soren Barker and Roosevelt “Robo” Bishop - from productions at the former Boothbay Playhouse to the Lincoln and Waldo theaters; same goes for director Nick Azzaretti of Newcastle. Azzaretti, you may remember, directed and performed in “The Importance of Being Earnest” with the Barkers in a River Company YouTube production. The difference for Nick here is the actors are in the same space with him – not in Maine, New York, and California!
Back to this play. It was written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Winfield who also performed the piece as the Reduced Shakespeare Company touring group. The trio masterfully present all 37 of the Bard’s plays and sonnets (all 154) in 97 minutes. It’s clever, brilliant, really; fast-paced, and hysterically entertaining; there are even audience participation bits – who’s sitting up front?! Don’t be shy … they will find you.
When I attended the July 22 rehearsal at the venue, the labyrinth area at the Edgecomb Community Church, I had not experienced this play, and, believe me, it’s an experience. The three actors portray all of the characters – with costume changes! And the props … oh those props …
So. The highlights for me (and no doubt you’ll agree) are the three rapping the tragic “Othello;” the football (our football, not Britain’s soccer) game used to chronicle the history of Britain’s rulers through the plays; then there’s Emily Sue as The Gory Gourmet during the “Titus Andronicus” bit. And the condensing all of the comedies – that’s 16 plays in five minutes – is fun, listen closely when this bit comes.
This show is a great vehicle for Bishop who’s comedic timing and energetic performances are always great fun to watch. Emily Sue and Soren are consummate performers. She even plays a bit of violin during the show. It’s fun to see this husband and wife “on stage” together … and killin’ it. And what’s worth noting is they are the parents of a toddler and infant. Where, oh, where do they find the time? How can their memories be in such fine shape?
There’s a strange business right around intermission time that will have newbies to the show (as I was) wondering what kind of wild goose chase is this?! Sorry, can’t tell you.
The second act is pretty much devoted to “Hamlet” – and why not? It is a, if not “the,” favorite of Shakespeare’s tragedies around the world. I know I love it. This abridged version is a delight complete with swordplay, wordplay (naturally), interesting props, and … audience participation that’s a real scream!
The setting for the show is perfect: an outdoor stage in a forested area, sunshine filtering through the trees, sitting within a labyrinth … Shakespeare was right: all the world is a stage!
“The Complete Works of William Shakespeare -abridged” will be performed over two weekends: Friday July 29 and Aug. 5 at 6 p.m. and Saturdays July 30 and Aug. 6 at 2 and 6 p.m. Get your tickets at
The Edgecomb Community Church is at 15 Cross Point Road in Edgecomb. This is BYOB – bring your own blanket or lawn chair if you prefer!