Is that how CliffsNotes did it?
a review and photos by Eric Jackson
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)
showing now at the Theatre Guild’s playhouse in Ancon
based on the plays and sonnets of William Shakespeare
adapted by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield
directed by Nick Miles
starring Adam Herzig, James Mattiace and Simon Tejeira
set & graphic design Stephanie Sanz
light design Juan de la Guardia
costume design Keitha Kushner
stage combat consultant Monalisa Arias
stage manager Andrea Marchosky
set construction Nick Miles
promotional photography Elena Nathani
videographer Amit Nathani
back stage assisant Maria Theoktisto
lighting operator Steve Barnett
costume assistant Terry Phipps
You blow your chance at a C- in high school English literature if you use this play instead of the CliffsNotes. Maybe this, plus a bit of old popular American music and a teacher who just wants to process you through, might get you a passing grade. The really mean teacher will test you on this play, and make you read the unabridged originals to compare and contrast. If you actually get into literature, the teacher will be doing you a wonderful favor by turning you onto The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).
With nobody credited on the playbill as producer, this was one of the Guild’s better productions. The cast was solid and well directed, with the outstanding performance in this reporter’s eyes turned in by Adam Herzig. The set as a work of art, the lighting, the campy costumes — these, too, were quite special.
The play is, of course, a mash-up, a spoof, of the works that set enduring standards of English literature. (Those standards were canonized by a generation deeply influenced by Shakespeare in the King James Bible, which appeared about 10 years after the masterpiece Hamlet and about five years before Shakespeare’s death. That towering literary work, problematic translation though it may be, was for centuries typically the only book found in a literate English-speaking home. Thus the collection of holy scriptures from Shakesperean times was the starting point for generations of writers and continues to be for many.) Your appreciation of English is stunted without direct exposure to Shakespeare and while you will enjoy this funny play without such exposure, you won’t completely get it. But therein is the genius of Long, Singer and Winfield, who crafted a zany play with jokes and story lines on several levels of sophistication, a technique whose use is also one of the hallmarks that distinguishes good from bad children’s television.
So how much Shakespeare is there in this play? No, they don’t get into Robbie. There is just enough for the audience to know that Adam Herzig can do the unadulterated stuff very well. It makes the derivative comedy that much better. The proto-psychology and swordplay are gravy.
At the time these words were written, there were to be three more performances in the little wooden playhouse near the DIJ in Ancon: Thursday, March 17 and the two following nights, all shows staring at 8 p.m. This show also goes on the road to Boquete for one show only, on Saturday, March 26 at 5 p.m. at Valle Escondido.