To be or not to be. Ah, that is the question. Having seen the first performance of The Island Theater’s rendition of the Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged), I highly recommend that you ‘be’ at the theater to enjoy it before it fades away into the annals of history. Directed by Nicole Labadie, whom I recall as the extremely talented actress who portrayed Pinocchio in Shrek the Musical, the hilarious sharing of the works of Shakespeare by three of the most enthusiastic young men I’ve ever witnessed will forever be etched in my mind.
Bobby Bickles, Vincent Bonilla, and Matt Felts not only passionately embrace the vision that the writers intended, but their individual talents are exemplified through the non-existent fourth wall and their ability to improvise when needed. I forecast that each show will be unique and extraordinary due to the nature of the play. As it is customary for the actors to deviate from the script, have discussions amongst themselves and the audience.
Vincent opens up Act I hilariously by sharing that they will portray the material in a six pound book which means that they will have to cover eight ounces every seven minutes. Matt shares his honorary degree as a Pre-eminent Shakespearean Scholar Eminent. If you don’t believe him you can view his certificate on the wall. Then Bobby enters to embellish the information that he learned by googling Shakespeare. With the task of covering the 1,122 roles in the combined works of Shakespeare, the energetic trio begin with Romeo and Juliet. The quick changes and the costumes are simple yet a stroke of genius with Matt as the narrator.
Titus Andronicus is portrayed as a cooking show and Othello as a rap song. As the energy and the humor escalates, the comedies are combined into one convoluted five minute reading (as the original plays often recycled the same plots anyway). Then comes the tragedies: Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, and MacBeth. After the ‘I Love My Willie’ monographs comes Bobby’s extremely entertaining dance interpretation of Troilus and Cressida. Act I comes to a close with the histories being told through a football game using the British crown as the football. With 36 plays down and 1 to go, Bobby relays that he doesn’t want to to Hamlet and runs away with Matt hot on his tail. Vincent tries to give a go on his own but ends up playing the kazoo.
After a 20 minute intermission, Act II picks up with Vincent reaching out to the audience to read the 154 Shakespearean sonnets which are written on a 3×5 note card. Luckily, Matt and Bobby return to complete Hamlet and involve the audience in a spectacular interactive portrayal of Ophelia in the nunnery scene. Matt also attempts to perform the soliloquy of “To Be or Not to Be” with whole- hearted laughter pouring out of the audience. The piece de resistance is the final segment where the extremely talents young actors repeat their performance of Hamlet each time quicker than the last with a satisfying ending of playing it out in reverse.
Bravo! Bravo! Bravo! I have not been so entertained nor laughed so hard in quite some time. It would be a tragedy if you were to miss seeing this highly entertaining piece of work on the stage of The Island Theater. Playing Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2 pm through September 16th. For more info, ticket prices, and future events please visit: www.theislandtheater.com