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Lots of Low Brow Laughs in “Complete Works of Shakespeare” at Human Race

Review by Liz Eichler of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) Revised”: Human Race

If you want a guaranteed evening of laughs, see Human Race Theatre’s “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) Revised,” originally produced by the Reduced Shakespeare Company. You don’t have to know a lot about Shakespeare to enjoy your evening as it has all the comedic elements to guarantee giggles: silly sight gags, puns and word play, and jolly juxtapositions.

Almost as big of a star as Shakespeare, local legend Bruce Cromer is the elder statesman of the ensemble and alleged Shakespeare expert—he is, after all professor of theatre at Wright State University, and developed “the Cromer Method,” part of the good-natured fun of the banters and asides to the audience.

The two other performers, one a former pupil, can match or may even exceed Cromer in the antics required for this ridiculous farce. Jordan LaRoya manages most of the female characters with skill and connects well with the audience in all characters. Shaun Patrick Tubbs also presents directly to the audience and conjures up some great guffaws.

Without giving up too much, the team presents at least a portion of all of Shakespeare’s plays (and is prepared to do the Sonnets as well).  One is presented in four different ways!  Another is “Hamilton-ized!” The histories are all combined into one football game!  Director Aaron Vega ensures the actors cover the stage, the material, and local references well.

The set is full of the other stars of the show—the props.  Heather Powell, Prop Master, and Noelle Wedig-Johnston, Costume Designer, ensure that the audience has strong visuals, which range from a Godzilla costume to rubber chicken swords.  Cromer’s costume sets the tone with exaggerated Elizabethan ruff, colorful pumpkin breeches, ample codpiece, and shimmery pink lycra tights. There’s layers and layers of imaginative clothing choices and props all stored on an inviting set by Eric Barker, lit by John Rensel.  The lobby is covered with table games to get you in the mood for fun. (I recommend they engage the audience even more with a contest to identify which props were seen in previous shows—I recognized a few oversized items!)

So get ready for some audience involvement, with a play heavily sponsored by our friends at Heidelberg Distributing Company and Buckeye Vodka, as well as Marion’s, Emerson, and more. “Complete Works” runs through June 17.  Get your tickets at ticketcenterstage.com or call 937-228-3630.