Theatre: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)
Brevity is the soul of wit.
Three actors (male in the video and the original troupe), with the use of costumes, bad wigs, and more wordplay and slapstick comedy than you can shake a rubber skull at, reenact the entirety of the works of William Shakespeare within the time frame of a two-act stageplay. Hilarity most DEFINITELY ensues.This was originally created by The Reduced Shakespeare Company, but has since been sold/given to/adapted by a wide variety of comedy troupes and theatre companies.The play has No Fourth Wall, requires performers to make it up as they go and audience participation. This means the likelihood of two shows (even from the same company of actors) being the same twice is very low, if not outright impossible. Unusual for a modern play, performers are not under contract to be as true to the script as possible after acquiring performance rights.That said, the script has three roles named for the actors who originally performed the piece: Daniel (the troupe leader), Jess (the scholar/serious actor), and Adam (comic relief; plays nearly all the female parts). Actors usually perform using their own names.Amazingly, the play uses just about every Abridged Series Trope despite predating the genre by 19 years.
In their 30th Anniversary Retrospective, however, they admit that they weren't the first to come up with the idea of shortening things for humorous effect. Specifically (Zeroth Law Of Trope Examples, anyone?), in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" the performance of Pyramis and Thisbe by Bottom and his friends.
All There in the Manual: The book of the show not only contains the script, but also hundreds of hysterical footnotes that make the book worth reading on its own.
Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: "Shakespeare's plays have been [reimagined] on the lunar landscape, Nazi prisoner-of-war camps, and even Vancouver."
Audience Participation: At the end of the first act, the actors use an audience member's program to figure out what they haven't done. At another, they recruit an audience member to play the part of Ophelia—with the rest of the audience playing the various parts of Ophelia's psyche.
Critical Research Failure: In-Universe example comes from Adam. When the others leave Adam on his own to research Othello, he comes to the conclusion that the "moor" referred to in the title is where you tie up a boat.
Cue Card Pause: "... and Mary Arden, daughter of a Roman. ... Catholic member of the landed gentry."
Deadpan Snarker: Jess and Daniel. Depending on the crowd, the audience can get in on it, too.
Do Not Try This at Home: Invoked by the cast just before the 45-second Hamlet. Subverted when Adam suggests doing it at a friend's house instead.
In some performances the it's played for Deliberate Values Dissonance, with one member of the troupe clearly uncomfortable with this (until he forgets); usually the same one who was embarassed about even attempting Othello due to being "melanin challenged".
Harpo Does Something Funny: Numerous places in the script. Before Intermission, Daniel's stage direction is "[he] Stalls" with a footnote describing the absurd things previous productions have done to entertain the audience.
Even the annotations are guilty of this. Example: Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra are linked with Macbeth (with MacDuff "from my mother's womb most untimely ripped") in what the script calls the "Caesarean section" of the show.
I Need a Freaking Drink: On the DVD, when Romeo is about to kiss Juliet (Adam), he looks down and takes another swig of poison first.
Idiot Ball: Mostly carried by Adam, but Jess picks it up from time to time as well.
Large Ham: Pretty much a requirement for all three.
Musical Gag + Mythology Gag: At least in the home video release, during the "EPILOGUE!" finish to Romeo and Juliet, Adam plays a guitar while intoning background music to the spoken narration. The song he sings is the 'Love Theme' from Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 adaptation. The others join in at the end:
"FOR ROMEO AND JULIET ARE DEAD!"
Some productions have been known to use "Romeo and Juliet" by Dire Straits.
"Cut the crap, Hamlet! My biological clock is ticking and I want babies now!!"
Keep in mind that the above line is not actually spoken by Ophelia, but by the audience representing her inner monologue.
Nice Shoes: The cast traditionally wears Converse hi-tops. Given the sheer physicality of the show, this is as much a practical choice as it is an aesthetic one.
No Fourth Wall: Taken Up to Eleven. Not only does the cast constantly address the crowd, but they also drag members onstage (willingly or not), steal their seats, sit on their laps, pretend to vomit on them, and in one (brief) case, take a member hostage.
"I'll kill the cameraman!"
"I don't care; we've got five of them."
One Steve Limit: Averted. The company calls multiple people "Bob" claiming it's easier for them to remember.
Radio Drama: The play was adapted into a six-part radio series in Britain, with episodes dealing with Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, the remainder of the tragedies, the comedies, the histories and the life of William Shakespeare. The format effectively doubled the length of the stage show and enabled the troupe to expand jokes and add new material. This included "special guests" (Reed "impersonating" people like Oprah and Helena Bonham Carter), more raps and recreations of the origins of the Capulet/Montague feud and the lost Shakespeare play "Cardenio".
The Danza: Actors will generally just use their own names for the show, as the original run did.
Those Wacky Nazis: Adam's biography of Shakespeare becomes one of Hitler after he drops his index cards.
Throw It In: Both subverted and played straight. The show's conceit is that these guys are making it up as they go, and much of the "spontaneity" is actually scripted. Then again, improvisation is encouraged, and there is a lot that can go wrong, so no two performances are ever quite the same.
Austin discourages it though when Adam and Reed try to bring a toy Godzilla into his segment about Troilus and Cressida.
Unusual Euphemism: The annotated version makes the claim that in Elizabethan England, men commonly sharpened their penises and used them as tools (such as boning knives) or weapons, giving the phrase "profaners of this neighbor-stained steel" an entirely different meaning.