Company Carolina, a student theatre organization at UNC Chapel Hill, staged a production of The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged). The premise of the show is that three guys act as entertainers and hosts of their own production – a play within a play. The script is entirely comedic and very difficult to pull-off, and it was originated by three experienced actors who founded the Reduced Shakespeare Company in the early 1980s. Since then, the parody has been performed all over the world and is extremely popular. It includes improvisation, audience involvement, and the shortest version of Hamlet ever. Starting with Romeo and Juliet, the show covers every work in some form or another. Titus Andronicus becomes a cooking show, Othello is a rap, the histories are blended together, the sonnets are touched, and finally the show ends with Hamlet repeated many times with each run being faster than the last until it is finally performed backwards. No doubt, this show is challenging.

While Company Carolina chose an appropriate show for resources – it’s meant to be a simple set with reusable costumes and props – the demand on the actors was too much for this student company. The production had some enjoyable sketches and each actor had some very nice moments, but the show was just too difficult to pull-off fully. A part of the gag of the whole parody is that we’re all making fun of the works together, all in good fun. But the beginning of the production felt rushed and impersonal, so I didn’t have time to trust the actors. It wasn’t until Act One was nearly done that I began liking the jokes and agreeing to go along with it all. All three of the actors had some nice and clear moments, but on the whole, line delivery felt fake or forced. The show lacked tightness, which hurt the comedy.

If I were a Chapel Hill student and these three actors were my friends, I would definitely want to see this production for every performance; however, as a stranger to these actors, it just didn’t sell me. Comedy and improvisation are very difficult, and the only way you get better is, simply, to do it. I applaud the actors and the company for taking on the challenge of this show. Plus, they were clearly having a good time!

This show closes on the evening of 12/4; see the sidebar for details.