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Review – Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play – by Harry Duke


Review – Shakespeare’s
Long Lost First Play (abridged)
at NVC St. Helena – by Harry Duke 

Having abridged the complete history of comedy, America, the Word of God, the great books, Christmas, Hollywood, Sports, Western Civilization and the complete works of William Shakespeare, one wouldn’t think the Reduced Shakespeare Company would have much left to abridge.  One would be wrong. As luck would have it, the recent discovery in a parking lot in Leicester, England of a long-lost manuscript attributed to ol’ Bill has left them with the unenviable task of taking the extremely lengthy first work of the Bard (which seems to consist of every plot and character that eventually became the 37 separate plays) and reducing it to about 90 minutes of tomfoolery entitled William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged).

Chad Yarish, Teddy Spencer

While the basic premise might lead one to believe that it’s a simple re-working of the original show (The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)), RSC Managing Partners Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor are workshopping this new production with all new material that ends up being 40% Shakespeare, 40% Disney, and 20% everything-else-but-the-kitchen-sink. The “Reduced” shows are non-stop gag fests and …Long Lost… is no different, with a pretty good hit-to-miss / laugh-to-groan ratio. Yes, some gags seem too soon (Isis?) while others seem well past their expiration date (Jar Jar Binks?), but if you don’t laugh at a particular gag wait about 3 seconds for the next one to come at you.

Cleverly written to incorporate the entire Shakespeare (and most of the Disney) canon, don’t let the Shakespeare part scare you off. While you may not be too familiar with Cymbaline or Pericles, Prince of Tyre, I’d wager you know something about The Little Mermaid or Mary Poppins. Pop culture is also in for a ribbing and yes, there is an obligatory Kardashians reference.

Dan Saski, Chad Yarish, Teddy Spencer

“Reduced” shows are typically performed by a cast of three and the three gentlemen jovially sweating through this show are “Reduced” regulars Dan Saski, Teddy Spencer and Chad Yarish. One really has to see a “Reduced” show to appreciate the workout these actors get, both vocally and physically, as they play dozens of characters and deal with as many quick colorful costume changes. As a workshop production, these actors also have to deal with the challenge of an ever-changing script with additions and deletions happening nightly. Add some puppets and some audience participation and what you have is a challenge these three performers are more than able to meet.

Currently playing in the outdoor amphitheater of the Napa Valley College Upper Valley Campus in St. Helena as part of Shakespeare Napa Valley, you’re invited to bring your comfy chair or blanket, pack some food and alcohol free liquid refreshment (but no glass!), and kick back and enjoy a pleasant Napa Valley evening in the company of Ariel, Puck, Richard III, King Lear, three hags, Malvolio, Prospero, Hamlet, Lady M, Falstaff, etc., etc., etc.

By the end of the evening – and there are no lights so you’ll be done by sunset – you will be more than happy to respond to Puck’s entreaty to “Give me your hands, if we be friends…”

William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged) a workshop production in association with the Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival

through July 12

Thurs – Sun @ 7pm- No July 4 performance

Tickets are $20 with significant discounts for Seniors, Students and Veterans. Children 12 and under are free. Sunday performances are “Pay What You Can “.

Napa Valley College – Upper Valley Campus Outdoor Amphitheater
1088 College Ave.
St. Helena, CA  94574

Photos courtesy of Shakespeare Napa Valley

Harry Duke Live theater reviews