The year was 1995. William Jefferson Clinton was in the White House, Coolio was rapping about a "Gangsta's Paradise" and the latest movie heartthrob was a little pig named "Babe." Meanwhile, at the downstairs space of Off-Broadway's Westside Theatre, a zany comedy called The Compleat Wks of Wllm Shksper proved a hit with audiences who wanted to see all of Shakespeare's canon sliced, diced, spoofed and condensed into two hours.
Now, one of the Off-Broadway production's original producers, Jeffrey Richards, is co-producing (with Kip Gould) an OB revival of the piece which started previews Sept. 28 and officially opened Oct. 15 at the Century Center. Despite this being a rough season for Off-Broadway shows, Shakespeare is hanging tough and will celebrate its 100th performance on Friday, Jan. 11.
Peter Ackerman, author of Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight, Jeremy Shamos (The Alchemist) and the youthful David Turner (The Invention of Love) star in the show — now using the longer and Americanized title "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)." Jeremy Dobrish, a veteran of the adobe theatre company [sic] directs, with Steven Capone designing the set, Markas Henry the costumes, Michael Gottlieb the lighting and Lewis Flinn the music and sound.
Penned by the American-born but London-based trio of Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield, Compleat Wks has wowed audiences with its knock-about farce since its debut at the Edinburgh Festival and has gone on to win critical acclaim in productions around the world. The show has also played two engagements in Los Angeles.
In Shakespeare, the onstage trio get through a month's worth of theatre in 97 minutes by using rapid-fire costume changes, lethal stage props, audience-participation, rapping and capsulized Elizabethan poetry. The first Off-Broadway mounting starred Christopher Duva, Peter Jacobson and Jon Patrick Walker and was directed by co-author Winfield. For tickets ($25-$55) and information on The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) at the Century Center, 111 East 15th Street, call (212) 239-6200.
— By David Lefkowitz