This show simultaneously pays homage to and pokes fun at William Shakespeare, theater’s most sacred cow. In the space of a few hours, three actors take to the stage to summarize all 37 of the Bard’s legendary plays— including the sonnets— in a blizzard of wit and energetic performance.
“The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” has become a theatrical favorite of both audiences and performers since its debut in 1987. Performed numerous times in Northwest Ohio over the ensuing decades, including a production at the Toledo Rep as recently as 2016, the latest version— a collaboration between Actors Collaborative Toledo (ACT) and Cutting Edge Theatre Company beginning on July 22— has director Jeffrey Albright taking the show back to its roots.
The play’s the thing
Albright and his cast are utilizing the original 1987 script written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfeld. The show has been changed over time, leading to the release of a 20th anniversary “revised” edition, but the ACT/Cutting Edge production focuses on the original text.
“I’ve seen a version of it performed, but I’ve not seen this particular version performed,” Albright said. This is not to say that the show won’t see some adaptation from its original script in the performance — in fact, one of the most delightful things about “Complete Works” is how malleable the show’s writers have allowed it to be, to grow and evolve from performance to performance.
“One of the things that the playwrights are very clear about in the script is that some of the pop culture and the political names that are used — they give you permission to change it and update it,” Albright said.
All the world’s a stage
The end result is a show that may never feel 100% the same twice from one staging to another. This is even true of the individual performances of this particular production — the first show, on July 22, will be at Sylvania’s Olander Park, while the last two performances on July 27 and 28 will take place at St. Paul’s United Methodist on Madison Ave. downtown. “The fun thing is, the first night (a fundraiser for Cutting Edge) will include an outdoor performance, and then the next weekend, they’ll be doing it inside,” explained Albright.
Approached by Cutting Edge’s creative director and group co-founder Stephanie L. Dennehy Albright had remained friendly with her since he directed her in a production years ago. “Stephanie was concerned that we were having actors learn this complicated piece for only one performance. And so she asked if my theater company, Actors Collaborative Toledo, would do the co-production, and the second weekend is in collaboration with ACT.”
Albright’s staging of “Complete Works” lends itself to being a very mobile production. With minimal sets and props, his ideas for the production allow the staging to travel from place to place, as well.
“We’re working with blocks and buckets of props that can be easily moved,” Albright said. “And my whole concept of the show is that this is a traveling group of actors and that they pick up their boxes and their buckets of props and go on to the next place.”
Tickets can only be purchased through Cutting Edge Theatre:
call 419-704-6184 or visit cuttingedgetheatre.org.
3pm. Sunday, July 22. Olander Park, 6930 Sylvania Ave., Free for Olander members. $10 for non-members. $30 per person, or $50 per couple if attending the show and Afterglow fundraiser.
8pm. Friday, July 27 & Saturday, July 28. St. Paul’s United Methodist, 1201 Madison Ave., $15.