The only things missing were star struck clusters of freshmen girls, Greek togas with crowns of thorns and a big bowl of punch spiked with gin, vodka, brandy and any other kind of booze that somebody brought along to the party.
Other than that Milwaukee Chamber Theatre is staging a frat party complete with loud music, dancing, costumes galore, speeches, arguments, bys singing at the top of their lungs and mugging trying to wring laughs out of places where you don’t really expect laughs.
The occasion is a rollicking production of "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) (revised)."
This madcap sendup of the Bard is predicated, as we are told in the prologue, is "a feat unprecedented in the history of civilization." All of Shakespeare’s 37 plays in under 90 minutes.
This is, I think, the fourth production of this play in the last five years, but this one hits the stage with a twist. Four college chums and graduates from the highly respected theater program at UW-Whitewater, gather onstage together to act like, well, boys.
The four -- Marcus Truchinski, Chase Stoeger, Chris Klopatek and Rick Pendzich -- leave nothing to the imagination in this two hour event. All four of them have gone on to distinguished careers in theater.
This the kind of humor when they say "stand up and let me slap you in the face and then, let’s do it again, and again, and again. And we’re gonna keep on doing it until you laugh."
Laughing was never in doubt.
Thing sword fights with croquet mallets and those noodles you swim with, a garish cooking show to tell the bloody story of Titus Andronicus, both Romeo and Juliet drinking their fatal poison from a Green Bay Packers cup, a spotlight that won’t stay still during the famous "To be or not to be" speech.
These boys may well put up a sign that says "No Adults Needed." Watching these boys at play I couldn’t help but think of the Three Stooges and their version of slapstick to tell a story or many stories.
While everyone will talk about the chemistry of these four accomplished actors, there must be a real serious to Ray Jivoff, who directed the show. Jivoff is the pixie actor, teacher, director and associate artistic director of Skylight Music Theatre. And this show proves his great good sense to put these guys on stage, offer some suggestions that may or may not be great ideas and then get out of the way.
A big part of the charm of this play is that you don’t have to be a Shakespeare expert to get a kick out of things. From the gender bending to the slightly ribald sight jokes, the whole thing is so obvious that there is no work for an audience to be done here.
Just sit back and relax and laugh when you see something funny.
There is a rhythmic momentum to this play. It gets going and then keeps on rolling downhill until we get to a curious passage of audience participation that runs on and on and puts the brakes to this train. But, fear not, because once the audience members are dispensed with the juice starts flowing again.
One of the nicest moments comes without any laugh when Klopatek seriously delivers the "what a piece of work is man" speech from Hamlet. It’s one of Shakespeare’s best speeches and Klopatek handles the language beautifully, giving a hint as to what we are missing when we say we are afraid of Shakespeare.
There are many reasons to see this play. But perhaps the best comes from British poet Lord Byron who roamed a century and half after Shakespeare.
"Always laugh when you can," Byron said. "It’s cheap medicine."
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) (revised runs through Dec. 14 and information on tickets and showtimes is available here.
With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.
He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.
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Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.