Play Review… CBMT’s Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) [Revised] brings out the laughter and the sonnets

Audience participation may be required

[  By Katherine Nettles  ]

In a play dedicated to zipping through the complete works of William Shakespeare with just a handful of cast members, there is a sense of lofty ambition, irreverent humor and the need for great haste. And the Crested Butte Mountain Theatre, which this weekend will complete its two-week run of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) [Revised], written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield, delivers 37 plays in 97 minutes packed with a range of approaches. There are sports analogies, audience member improvisations and air guitar solos. Five actors (minus the audience members), directed by Crested Butte native and long-standing CBMT participant Katie Thomas and stage manager Emilly Sharan, perform an over-the-top combination of the bard’s sonnets, comedies, tragedies, histories and “other plays,” a.k.a. “the bad ones” as one actor put it, in under two hours. The Complete Works is absolutely, from start to finish, a comedy.

To those who have seen this production before, rest assured the latest revisions, complete with onstage Google searches and Crested Butte based references, will bring a fresh take to the humorous classic that first premiered in London in 1987.

The cast of Jimmy Utley, Randy Losch, Graeme Duke, Barron Farnell and Jack Mangan perform with high energy, often swapping clothes, wigs and places to propel the storylines which give some of the most prominent tragedies such as Romeo and Juliet, MacBeth and Hamlet ample airtime.  In other cases, such as the collection of comedies and histories, they perform more of a conglomerate summary. For those unfamiliar with Shakespeare’s works, this play is a great introduction and doesn’t take itself too seriously—in fact there isn’t much seriousness at all aside from the dedication to the performance despite loud guffaws from a wildly entertained audience. That audience was at times tapped to participate as stand-in characters, so go prepared to at least help call out some famous lines. True Shakespeare afficionados will appreciate the countless cross references made to different acts and plays as well in this playful review of such a large body of work. 

Randy Losch, a recent Western Colorado University graduate whose emphasis on theatre and performance studies has clearly prepared him well, transitions seamlessly from narrator of the production to playing what is perhaps the most famous brooding character of all time for the production’s final act. Graeme Duke, who recently returned to Crested Butte after working in theatre companies in California, and Jimmy Utley, a mainstay of the CBMT and Subject to Change Improv Troupe, serve up the better part of 36 plays by tirelessly (and sometimes breathlessly) playing multiple characters at a time. Barron Farnell and Jack Mangan supplement in all manner of roles, adding particular zest to a summary of the Shakespearean histories. Each cast member is truly “an oozing karbunkle of knowledge” emitting line after elaborate line of well-executed Elizabethan English. The set (not shown) is its own masterpiece thanks to the handiwork of Sadie Holguin, a current student at WCU. 

The final weekend showings are on Friday, October 7 and Saturday, October 8 at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. so get in early for a drink and a seat. “Aboard, aboard!”

Check Also

Celebrating the Beat for 19 years

[  By Dawne Belloise  ] One of the longest running programs at the Crested Butte …