See Shakespeare's 37 plays in a tidy 97-minute performance

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March 5, 2019

By Connor Kockler ‘22

comedy troupe

Reduced Shakespeare Company

Reduced Shakespeare Company takes plays to a new level

Star-crossed lovers. To be or not to be. Et tu, Brute? These are some of the most famous lines from the plays of William Shakespeare.

Shakespeare published 37 plays during his writing career. But what happens when you condense them into one tidy 97-minute performance?

The Reduced Shakespeare Company puts its own spin on Shakespeare’s classic plays, performing “The Complete Works of Shakespeare Abridged” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 23, at the Stephen B. Humphrey Theater on the Saint John’s University campus as part of the Fine Arts Series at SJU and the College of Saint Benedict.

The Reduced Shakespeare Company comedy troupe stars Michael Faulkner, Tiger Reel and Dan Saski and is known for their practice of “reducing” plays into shorter time frames. The company began as a pass-the hat act performing a 20-minute version of Hamlet at Renaissance fairs in 1981 outside of Los Angeles and San Francisco, where the entertainment slots allowed a maximum performance time of 30 minutes, according to its website.

The company developed a fast, funny and physical performance style to keep their audiences from walking away.

Their style works. Since that fateful day in 1981, ‘The Bad Boys of Abridgement’ have created 10 stage shows, two television specials, several failed TV pilots and numerous radio pieces – all of which have been performed, seen, heard and translated the world over.

An irreverent, fast-paced romp through the Bard’s plays, “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged” was London’s longest-running comedy having clocked a very palpable nine years in London’s West End at the Criterion Theatre.

The cast quickly changes through stories, keeping you on the edge of your seat, not knowing what’s going to happen next and with humor aplenty.

It’s a wild and entertaining ride that is sure to entertain even those who don’t know much about Shakespeare and his plays. The “Today Show” said, “If you like Shakespeare you’ll love this show. If you hate Shakespeare you’ll love this show!” The Los Angeles Times has called it “Wildly funny. Masterful!”

The company’s first three shows, “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged,” “The Complete History of America Abridged” and “The Bible: The Complete Word of God Abridged” ran for over nine years at the Criterion Theatre in Piccadilly Circus. They were London’s longest-running comedies, and the company had more shows running in the West End than Andrew Lloyd Webber.

They have performed on Broadway and the Lincoln Center in New York City; the White House and Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.; the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal. They have also performed in Ireland, Belgium, Holland, Australia, New Zealand and Israel.

Tickets are $30 for adults, $27 for seniors and $23 for CSB/SJU faculty and staff. Youth and students (with ID) get in for $15, and CSB/SJU student tickets are $10. Please note that the performance contains occasional bawdy language and mild innuendo, and is recommended for ages 13 and older.

For tickets, call the Benedicta Arts Center Box Office at 320-363-5777 or order online.

This performance is sponsored in part by Thomsen’s Garden Center and Marco.

Fans can get in the mood for Reduced Shakespeare Company and win tickets to the show by participating in a Shakespeare trivia contest from 6:30-9 p.m. Friday, March 8, at Milk and Honey Ciders, 11738 County Road 51, St. Joseph. Food will also be available at the event from Bravo Burrito.

Reduced Shakespeare Company is also conducting an improv workshop with the Reduced Shakespeare Company from 10-11:30 a.m. Saturday, March 23, at GREAT Theatre’s Helgeson Learning Lab Theatre, 710 Sundial Drive, Waite Park. Students will learn beginning improv structure, theories and styles. Theater games, group exercises, performance ideas and scene work will also be taught. Cost is $7, and interested parties can register online.