By: Hannah Sgambellone ~Staff Writer~After the close of Hamlet last weekend, Xavier Theatre wasted no time in jumping into its next, and vastly different, production: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) [Revised] (CWSA).
Starring junior Sara Ringenbach, seniors Alex Roberts and Eric Minion in an ensemble cast and understudied by sophomore Nora Weisz, CWSA tackles “37 plays in 97 minutes” in a breakneck comedic exploration of the Shakespearean canon.
Sprinkled with improv and audience participation, CWSA promises to be as hilarious as it is unpredictable. Leading the ensemble cast is director Ed Stern, the former artistic director for the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, who is returning after last year’s production of Kenneth Lonnegan’s This Is Our Youth.
CWSA is the first of a series of abridged comedies by the company Madcap Shakespeare on the West End from the 1980s. The show requires the “[Revised]” addition to the title, as snippets of the original Shakespeare plays have been adjusted to a more modern sense of humor.
Though the Shakespeare scholar will find a fair share of inside jokes, the average theatergoer will also find the chaotic show entertaining.
Roberts, an ensemble member and veteran of the Xavier stage, describes some of the challenges of working in such a non-traditional show.
“Being in Complete Works has definitely been an experience like no other,” Roberts said. “This show was very physically demanding, and it is a three person show. We are all onstage practically the entire time, so we all have to really depend on each other and trust each other. Eric, Sara and I have had to get extremely close in more ways than one.”
Minion also reflected on the process and working with returning director Ed Stern.
“It has been a great experience working with Ed. He is a brilliant director and even in a show that can seem like it is chaotic he has way of simplifying it and making it organized for us as actors.”
“One of the most remarkable aspects of the Xavier Theatre program is the fact that they are bringing in local and international professionals to work with the students,” Minion said. “Not only do students get to tell potential employers that they have worked with directors like Ed Stern, but also it is a tremendous learning experience.”
The juxtaposition of such an outrageous comedy with a drama such as Hamlet might seem strange at first glance, but Xavier Theatre’s goal is to portray the breadth of the human experience, both the tragic and the comic.
It is this timeless human tradition that makes Shakespeare such an enduring literary force even against today’s turbulent backdrop. Shakespeare’s mastery of both drama and comedy is unrivaled, and both are often positioned together to contrast each other.
“This is a funny and entertaining show, and I think that’s what people need right now – a break from all the serious stuff, a break from real life,” Roberts said.
CWSA runs from Thursday to Sunday in the Gallagher Student Center Theater. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday. Tickets are available online at http://www.xavier.edu/theatretickets or at the box office in the Gallagher Student Center.