Discovered in a treasure-filled parking lot in Leicester, England (next to a pile of bones that didn’t look that important), an ancient manuscript proves to be the long lost first play written by none other than seventeen-year-old William Shakespeare from Stratford. We are totally not completely making this up. From the program.
This rambunctious comedy, part actual Bard, part extremely clever faux Bard (mostly in couplets and rhymes) and entirely rambunctious, posits that the nascent author’s first effort was a mash-up of everything to come. Three multifaceted, quick-change performers play dozens of carefully enunciated, highly exaggerated roles. “It’s a double Quarto, or a Quarto-Pounder!” exclaims a monk hefting the manuscript.
“An ancient grudge pits Puck (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) against Ariel (The Tempest)…” Bald Puck has a tiny pair of wings and diminutive horns. Ariel first appears in a wig, ersatz mermaid tail and t-shirt printed with a shell bra. Not THAT Ariel! She jettisons the tail, but makes a good case that all Disney stories derive from Shakespeare.
Reed Martin, Teddy Spencer, Austin Tichenor
The two spirits put spells on characters from familiar plays as if competing on Xbox. Poof! Dromio and Antipholus (Comedy of Errors) are transported to Italy. Poof! Puck manifests Hamlet, “You tend to be a not-to-be Hamlet. I need you to be a to-be Hamlet…” who gets paired with Ariel’s conjured Lady Macbeth. Except for opulent red curls, disoriented Falstaff looks like Charles Laughton as Henry VIII. Puck sprinkles nectar in the eyes of Juliet. Wait for it. “Dromio, Dromio, where for art thou, Dromio?” she importunes. Other floral ambrosia makes Bottom (Midsummer), now Eyore, a victim of undying love.
Richard III “Look at him cooing like a dove, with a hump only a mother could love…” pays court to Beatrice (Much Ado About Nothing) and is swatted for his efforts. “Thou lovest me!” A ukulele vaudeville serenade follows. No dice. “Maybe Richard wants a he not a she.” Affections fluidly switch genders. Into the three witches’ brew (Macbeth) go “things that are never used in part… Democrat brain, Republican heart…” Fake-muscle-bound Oberon (Midsummer) wanders in accusing Puck. “Why should gentle Puck cross his Oberon?” the fairy asks. “To get to the other side.”
We meet King Lear and his daughters, Prospero and Caliban (The Tempest), “Malvoliago” a compendium who strongly resembles Severus Snape (Harry Potter), Cleopatra “I am Egypt’s queen. In my salad days when I was green, I loved Caesar…” Kate (The Taming of the Shrew), several Henrys, another dozen plus players and the Bard himself.
Austin Tichenor, Teddy Spencer, Reed Martin
The show is fast, its cast uninhibited. There’s NO fourth wall. We’re addressed and winked at; a few of you will participate. All three thespians turn on a dime in accordance with audience reaction. Some of the play is stupid, some of it silly, some of it FUNNY. In order to be a good abstract artist, one has to first understand the figurative. These guys “get” Shakespeare. They wreack havoc with sure hands. Young kids, I think might be lost, but older ones, studying the icon, would likely have a grand time watching him well skewered.
The Reduced Shakespeare Company since 1981 has created 10 stage shows, 2 television specials, several tv pilots, and numerous radio pieces worldwide. There’s a kids pop-up book and one for Attention-Impaired adults
Photos Courtesy of the Company
Opening left to right: Reed Martin, Teddy Spencer, Austin Tichenor
The Reduced Shakespeare Company presents
William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (Abridged)
Reed Martin-Co-Author, Co-Director, Performer
Austin Tichenor- Co-Author, Co-Director, Performer
Teddy Spencer- Performer
Through March 11, 2018
The New Victory Theater
209 West 42nd Street