Theater Review | Thru Feb. 22 Bringing Shakespeare to the masses - this is the goal, in a very unorthodox way, of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), playing as part of Theatre on the Square"s 15th anniversary season of reruns.

Thom Beeler, Kimberly Ruse and Benjamin D. Tebbe in Theatre on the Square"s "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)"

Anything that can confuse Hitler and Shakespeare and still come off as a slapstick Cliffs Notes version of English literature can"t be bad. If you are a Shakespeare lover, the pure audacity of what they"ve done to his works will be a source of insider humor, and if all you know about Shakespeare is that a couple of his plays were made into movies, you"ll get a kick out of this, too. Irreverent bastardizations abound, such as Titus Andronicus as a cooking show, the incorporation of a lightsaber battle into Macbeth and performing Othello as a rap because the cast is comprised of self-proclaimed "crackers." All of Shakespeare"s 16 comedies are distilled into one rather confusing play and his historical works are combined into one football game of pass-the-crown, but the two that get the most stage time are Romeo and Juliet, and the entirety of Act 2 is devoted to Hamlet. It"s the body work and direction (by ShadowApe"s Constance Macy, who directed the original TOTS production) that really bring out the humor, as much of the dialogue is forgone in lieu of, as in Romeo and Juliet, spontaneous scenes from a WWF match. Little touches, like the ghost-on-a-stick in Hamlet, take a barren stage and rather random props and put them to good use. Of the original cast, Tom Beeler and Kimberley Ruse return, with Benjamin D. Tebbe completing the trio. A willingness to look completely silly and embrace the cheese of overacting serves all of them well - this is NOT the sort of work that can be taken too seriously. Theatergoers who fear audience participation, beware in Act. 2: A rather drawn-out "Get thee to a nunnery" scene gets everyone involved. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) continues through Feb. 22; call 637-8085 for tickets.

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