At New Swan, ‘Complete Works of William Shakespeare’ is Hilarious Improv Comedy
By Eric Marchese | Special to the NB Indy | August 20 Independent
It would take months and a dedicated core of theater enthusiasts to stage every play written by Shakespeare – and presenting each drama, comedy and historical play in their entirety would be a monumental endeavor.
Enter “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare,” whose goal is to pare each of the Bard of Avon’s plays down to the bare minimum and present them all in one sitting, so absurdly minimized as to generate laughter.
“Complete Works” is the second comedy in the outdoor summertime New Swan Shakespeare Festival’s current season.
New Swan traditionally features one Shakespeare drama and one comedy, performed in repertory. This year’s shows are “Julius Caesar” and “As You Like It.” The inclusion of “Complete Works” creates two comedy slots and represents the first time in the Irvine troupe’s 11 seasons that it has presented three productions.
“Complete Works” is the 1980s brainchild of Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield, then-college students having fun at Renaissance Pleasure fairs by performing whirlwind versions of Shakespeare plays
The show has undergone an almost dizzying number of revisions – so many as to defy any attempt at cataloguing and enumerating them. New Swan’s production is one of the more recent versions known under the title “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) (revised) (redone).”
A Timely ‘Julius Caesar’ at New Swan Shakespeare Festival
By Eric Marchese | Special to the NB Indy | August 7 Independent
Was Julius Caesar ambitious?
Ambition is an elusive quality that pushes those gripped by it into deeds often incomprehensible to most of us. Shakespeare knew it well, and explored it through multiple characters – notably Lady MacBeth, Richard III, and Goneril and Regan, who lunged for wealth and power possessed by their father, King Lear.
The Bard of Avon’s 1599 historical drama “The Tragedy of Julius Caesar” examines the personality traits and possible motives that drove the Roman general and politician, having us wondering whether he craved the highest pinnacle of power or, on the flip side, wanted only what was best for Rome and its populace.
At its intimate, 137-seat outdoor venue at U.C. Irvine, a miniature replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, New Swan Shakespeare Festival produces a “Julius Caesar” that pares down and tightens the script, clarifying a storyline and themes that depict a gripping dynamic.
On one end is Caesar, poised to become an omnipotent emperor of Rome; at the other, desperate to counterbalance him, are a handful of senators terrified his power and popularity will replace the Republic with a monarchy.
A Comedic Yet Thought-Provoking “As You Like It” at the New Swan Shakespeare Festival
By Eric Marchese | Special to the NB Indy | July 23, 2023 | Newport Beach Independent
New Swan Shakespeare Festival always runs all summer and typically pairs one of the Bard of Avon’s comedies with one of his dramas.
“As You Like It” and “Julius Caesar” are this year’s shows, but for the first time in its 11 seasons, the company is also presenting a third production: “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) (revised) (redone).”
That popular improv-style comedy pays homage to the prolific playwright and the considerably hefty body of his works for the stage but gently ribs the many shows while also giving actors a chance to exercise their comedic chops.
“As You Like It” was popular in its day and it’s revived frequently, for obvious reasons: Its tone is lighthearted, the characters trade witty repartee and speak in jest, and audiences are asked only to laugh and partake of the fun.