"We don't have to do it justice, we just have to do it!"
Also known as "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)", this is the signature play from the Reduced Shakespeare Company. It started as a twenty-minute version of Hamlet that was performed at Renaissance Faires outside of Los Angeles and San Francisco in 1981, where the maximum time for a performance was thirty minutes.
The original 1-hour version (written by Jess Borgeson, Adam Long, & Daniel Singer) premiered in 1987. It has been revised and expanded, and is now performed by theatre companies all over the world.
The idea here is for three actors to condense all 37 of William Shakespeare's plays and 154 sonnets into less than two hours. The cast (all three of them) play 75 different roles, complete with costumes and props. The style is farcical, slapstick, and improvisational, and its success is highly dependent upon the quality of the actors and their interaction with the audience.
The first act starts with a short, gender-bending interpretation of Romeo and Juliet. One of the actors will play all the female roles (in drag), and whenever the character dies, he "vomits" on the lap of the same poor soul in the front row. Every time.
Other treatments include:
- Othello as the rap song "The Menace of Venice". Done best if one of the actors is black, and can provide assistance to the white guys.
- The sonnets done as interpretive dance
- Titus Andronicus as a cooking show ("Now, when you've had a long day - your left hand chopped off, your sons murdered, your daughter raped, her tongue cut out, and both her hands chopped off - well, the last thing you want to do is cook.").
- All the histories as a big American football game, with the football replaced by a crown. King Lear is included here, but then is penalized for being a "fictional character on the field."
- All the comedies are are rolled into one play called "The Comedy of Two Well-Measured Gentlemen Lost in the Merry Wives of Venice on a Midsummer's Twelfth Night in Winter", or "Cymbeline Taming Pericles the Merchant in the Tempest of Love As Much As You Like It For Nothing," or "The Love Boat Goes to Verona" (or alternatively, "Four Weddings and a Transvestite").
Macbeth ("The Scottish Play") also gets it's due:
Witches: Double, double, toil and trouble
(Macbeth enters with sword. In nearly impenetrable Scottish accents:)
Macbeth: Stay, ye imperrfect macspeaker. Mactell me macmore.
Witches: Macbeth, Macbeth, beware Macduff
None of woman born shall harm Macbeth
'Til Birnam Wood come to Dunsinane, don't ye know.
(Witches out; Macduff in, hiding behind a twig.)
Macbeth: O, that's dead great. Then macwhat macneed macI macfear of Macduff, eh?
(Macduff throws down disguise, wields sword, throws two-fingered gesture at Macbeth.)
Macduff: See ye Jimmy and know that I was from me mother's womb untimely ripped! What d'ye think about that?
Macbeth: Aye, it's bloody disgusting. Lay on, ye great haggis-face.
(They fence. One misses, apologizes; they stop a beat and continue.)
Macduff: Ah, Macbeth! Ye killed me wife, ye murdered me babies, and ye shat in me stew!
Macbeth: Och, I didna'!
Macduff: Oh aye, ye did! I had t' throw half of it away.
Macbeth: Well, then, eat out, Macduff!
(Macduff chases Macbeth offstage. "Time out!" Macduff enters, but Macbeth can still be heard fighting in the back. Macduff sticks sword through curtains; backstage, Macbeth's scream is abruptly cut off. Macduff disappears, reenters with severed head.)
Macduff: Behold where lies the usurper's cursed head. Macbeth, yer arse is out the windie.
(Macduff throws the head to the witches, who screech with delight. He tries to start the next line, but is cut off by the cackling several times.)
Macduff: Shut up, ye gits!
(The witches fall silent.)
Macduff: That never was there a story of more blood and death, than this o' Mr. and Mrs. Macbeth. Thankee.
(He bows and departs. Lights out.)
The second act is devoted to Hamlet. The first time through the play, the audience is enlisted to help Ophelia (some poor unsuspecting female audience member) get into her final scream after Hamlet's "Get thee to a nunnery!" by chanting such helpful aphorisms as "Maybe yes, maybe no", "Paint an inch thick", and "Cut the crap, Hamlet! My biological clock is ticking, and I want babies now!". Then, they do the play again, faster. Then a third time, even faster. And last but not least, they do it backwards. "be to not or be To."