PLAY REVIEW: SFCC’s Wllm Shkspr’ puts the Bard, audience through the wringer
Similar to how James Franco, Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill play themselves in the current movie “This Is the End,” three local actors play themselves in the parody “The Complete Works of Wllm Shkspr (abridged, revised),” which continues Thursday and Saturday at State Fair Community College’s Studio Theatre.
The play, part of SFCC’s summer repertory along with “Eleemosynary” (to be staged Wednesday, Friday and Sunday), stars three familiar faces. I’ve seen several of SFCC theater director Eric Yazell’s plays in the last few years, but this is the first time I’ve seen him on stage. Despite his in-character complaints that he’s “too old for this show,” he’s good at doing exaggerated voices of Shakespeare characters. He also kept up with his younger cast mates on Sunday, even though he noted during the rap version of “Othello”: “I’m 48 and I’m white.”
Tommy Waller, an SFCC graduate now attending Missouri Valley College, is an endless bundle of energy; you may have recently seen him guesting with the Punchline Players improv troupe. And current SFCC student Zach Craft capably holds his own with the veterans.
Don’t go to “Wllm Shkspr” if you don’t want to risk getting pulled into the show, or being fake-barfed on by Waller. It’s kind of like sitting in the front row at a stand-up comedy show, and with such a small theater, pretty much everyone is in the front. Yazell picked me out to help with the portrayal of the id, ego and superego of “Hamlet.” For reasons I don’t entirely understand, this involved me running back and forth across the small stage. “Don’t put this in the paper, Bob,” Yazell suggested. For some reason, he called me “Bob,” but then again, he also called one of the female audience helpers “Bob.”
As with the most recent Stauffacher Theatre show, “Lucky Stiff,” the absurdity of “Wllm Shkspr” isn’t precisely my thing, but I can’t deny that Yazell, Waller and Craft do a great job with the material. The 1987 script by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield also allows the troupe to write some of its own material for the sake of timeliness and local flavor. The Sunday staging featured a clever jab at the Sedalia group that protested “The Vagina Monologues” (those folks will want to skip this one, too) and some roast-style humor. Yazell jabbed Waller for taking four years to get his two-year degree from SFCC, and Waller shot back that he had “a great director at SFCC … Tim Wells” (Yazell’s colleague, who is helming “Eleemosynary”).
The actors make use of every corner of the theater, even going into the technical booth at times and incorporating director Trevor Belt and his crew. The fourth wall is nonexistent here; Yazell naturally worked a crying baby into Sunday’s show. At another point, everyone in the cast and crew broke down to do the “Harlem Shake.” And props abound, so watch out for flying (fake) knives and (unfortunately fake) paper currency.
I’m not a Shakespeare aficionado, so I thought this show might be a fun way to soak up some knowledge without having to sit through a bunch of iambic pentameter. The actors share some tidbits about his oeuvre, and the program lists all the Bard’s plays, but I would’ve liked a bit more facts and trivia and slightly less silliness.
The best segment is the rap version of “Othello,” and the weakest is a medley of Shakespeare’s “history” plays (those named after various kings of England) staged as a football game. The “Wllm Shkspr” playwrights’ favorite play must be “Hamlet,” though, as that’s reserved for the second act. The first 36 are checked off before intermission.
"Wllm Shkspr" promises “37 plays in 97 minutes,” and you’ll get that, but I can’t say what you’ll get beyond that, because this crazy interactive show is never staged the same way twice.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: “The Complete Works of Wllm Shkspr (abridged, revised)”
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Saturday
WHERE: Studio Theatre, Yeater Learning Center, State Fair Community College, Sedalia
TICKETS: $8 (public), free (SFCC students and employees)
NOTE: The other summer repertory play, “Eleemosynary,” will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Friday and 2 p.m. Sunday. A $12 ticket is available for people who want to see both plays.
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