Goshen Playhouse, Goshen: Imagine laughing out loud when Romeo and Juliet take their lives or when Hamlet kills Ophelia’s father. While a purist might cry “Blasphemy!” audiences at the Goshen Players production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) cry tears of laughter.
So gifted are the three actors who take on this daunting production that they managed to do all of the Bard’s plays in little more than an hour and a half. There have been many fine productions of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged), but none as fine or as funny as the one currently playing at the Goshen Playhouse.
Some productions rush through quick summaries of the Bard’s plays in comic, lightning-fast performances. If you blink or sneeze, you miss a few plays. This is not the case at Goshen. Director Eric William Wilczak has chosen a superior cast to emphasize the plays that the audience is most familiar with. This fast-paced “abridged” comedy by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield is as funny as it is true to the plots of Shakespeare’s works. While all of the plays, every single one of them, are portrayed here, the more popular ones are spotlighted. These include Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet. But who knew that the great tragedies could be turned into hilarious comedies?
You don’t need to know much about Shakespeare or his plays to appreciate this production. You will understand the words and actions clearly. Once you experience Kate Costello, Robert Newal Kwalick, and Devon Richtmeyer performing this piece, you are not likely to forget the show or their performances.
Kate is a walking talking comic riot. Whether she is playing with an Elmo puppet or confusing Romeo’s “but love” with “butt love,” she keeps the laughter factor sky-high.
Robert is the perfect match for Kate’s non-stop hilarity. Robert’s spotlight moment is when he entertains the audience as a juggler. First he starts by juggling one ball, then two. “I know what you want,” he tells the audience. You want me to juggle two balls with one hand.” And so he juggles two balls and one artificial hand.
Devon gets to play the more serious roles. As a scholar, her moment is especially comic when she mixes up her notes on Shakespeare with Hitler and World War II.
Director Eric William Wilczak has left no detail aside. When Hamlet is about to kill Ophelia’s father, Jim Luurtsema’s sound design earns its own laugh with the accompanying sinister music from Psycho. Jim is also the stage manager for this production and considering how many props and costumes are used in this play he definitely did a great job. Les Baldwin’s lighting design worked well and Susan Aziz’s costumes were as clever as they were colorful.
At the 400th anniversary of his death, Shakespeare must be turning in his grave with laughter thanks to this outstanding production. Don’t miss it. The drive to Goshen is lovely. Make it a day trip and catch a Sunday matinee. It plays through May 8. Box office: 860-491-9988
Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in The American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact:[email protected]