Chantal King, Lauren Stockless and Noli French star in Fenix Theatre’s “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare [abridged] [revised] (again),” a madcap reenactment of 37 Shakespearean plays, at Deering Oaks park in Portland. Photo by by Kat Moraros Photography

Sun and side-splitting laughter permeated the air at Deering Oaks park Thursday evening as Fenix Theatre Company kicked off its 15th season with the wackiest Shakespeare in the park to date.

Written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield, “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare [abridged] [revised] (again)” is a madcap reenactment of 37 Shakespearean plays that leaves the audience wishing the prolific bard had penned more plays for Fenix’s comic troupe to blissfully butcher with reckless abandon.

This year is the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s “First Folio,” which was the first published book to contain his plays as a collection. Fenix’s production, directed by Hollie Pryor, is a homage that comically attempts to condense that weighty tome into a fast-paced, one-hour and 30-minute play. The result is outrageous and loads of fun especially for those familiar with the original plays.

The premise is that Chantal (Chantal King), Noli (Noli French) and Lauren (Lauren Stockless) have been hired to perform the complete works of William Shakespeare. Chantal claims to be a preeminent Shakespeare scholar, Noli only knows what she has incorrectly garnered from the internet, and Lauren is the amusing voice of reason in the middle.

Unable to perform all of Shakespeare’s works in their allotted time, the three decide to deliver play highlights, modernized renditions, and creatively combined plays. Highlights include “Titus Andronicus” as a cooking show; the voluminous histories as a football game, with a crown for the football; and the comedies as “The Love Boat Goes to Verona.”

Of course, Shakespeare’s works wouldn’t be complete without such well-known plays as “Macbeth,” “Othello,” “Romeo and Juliet” and “Hamlet.” All are hysterically condensed and delivered, with the “Hamlet” finale serving as the cherry on top of this nutty comic sundae.

Advertisement

In Fenix fashion, the play doesn’t employ elaborate sets and costumes. It’s performed on the bandshell, with the park as a backdrop. Nature added a nice touch Thursday, blanketing the stage with blossoms from a nearby tree.

“We don’t have to do it justice, we just have to do it,” says Stockless’ alter-ego at the beginning. Of course, that and the rest of the play is all in good fun. For the play to succeed, the actors must be adept at Shakespeare, quick-witted and willing to do just about anything to make the audience laugh.

Fenix’s cast members are up to the challenge, delivering Shakespearean verse with precise timing and emphasis that far surpasses simple rote memorization, all the while interjecting comic tangents, modern-day references and over-the-top antics, without missing a beat. They accomplish this with aplomb, utilizing ridiculous costumes and props for comic emphasis, including a bouncy unicorn. The three portray all the characters and remain onstage throughout the duration of the play, without breaking for an intermission.

Laughter-inducing quips and just the right amount of audience participation add to the delightfully crazy production.

It’s free, and the location is hard to beat on a gorgeous summer evening. For those who can afford it, the Fenix Theatre Company accepts donations, with some enticing thank-you gifts given for donations starting at $20.

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. Contact her at: aprilhboyle@yahoo.com.
Twitter: @ahboyle

Comments are no longer available on this story