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Three actors take on all of Shakespeare's plays in 'Compleat Works'

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At the close of its 25th anniversary season, Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park is staging a fund-raiser dinner and special, one-night-only performance of the "The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged)."

First staged in 1987 by well-known California troupe Reduced Shakespeare Company, "Compleat Works" features three actors in a madcap endeavor to perform "? in some form or another "? all of Shakespeare's plays in about 90 minutes. "Compleat Works" has since become a huge success and stages with companies around the world.

"Obviously, the original company who wrote the piece knew their Shakespeare well. It's key to know the subject well to parody it properly," said OSP director Sue Ellen Reiman.

Twenty-two years later, "Compleat Works" still stands out as one of the few modern comedies to effectively take on the work of Shakespeare.

Christopher Curtis, one of three stars of OSP's Friday production, said that people tend to treat Shakespeare as holy writ, and that poking fun at the playwright and/or his work is tantamount to sacrilege.

"I think Shakespeare himself had a fantastic sense of humor and would have welcomed the kind of irreverence that is found throughout 'Compleat Works,'" he said. "In a sense, the show is like a comedy roast of Shakespeare. It is obvious that the people on stage have a great affinity for Shakespeare "? they just aren't afraid to make fun of him!" 

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Curtis will be joined by OSP regulars Hal Kohlman and David Mays.

"Hal and David are wonderful actors, and I love getting to work with them both," Curtis said. "I haven't often gotten to see the wackier side of them "? and that has been a delight to experience."

Reiman handpicked the three actors for the show, and said the play requires performers with both the experience and stage chops to deal with the frantic pace and physical movement while relating to the audience.

Because "Compleat Works" features some improvisation, Curtis said that the show is always a little different every time. Reiman, who is also a member of OKC improv troupe Everybody and Their Dog, used her experience to help the actors refine some of their crazier ideas for the stage.

Reiman had a different take on her approach.

"We're attempting a somber and studied look at the art and themes that Shakespeare used and how they affect us today," she said. "Yeah, right! I'm throwing blocking and props at them and staying the hell out of their way!"

Before Friday's show, OSP will host a dinner catered by The Petroleum Club that will help raise funds for the nonprofit.

Reinman described the event as a bargain.

"Dinner, drinks and a show for $100!" she said. "Come on, you'd pay it anyway, just in three different locations!"

"The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged)" stages at 7:30 p.m. Friday by Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park at the Civic Center Music Hall.

"?Eric Webb

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