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The Reduced Shakespeare Company Presents: The Complete World of Sports (Abridged)!

October 4th, 2010

I was delighted to have had a chance, last week, to see the new Reduced Shakespeare Company play, The Complete World of Sports (Abridged) at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre.  This run of performances was the East Coast premiere of this new show, and it was a blast!

The Reduced Shakespeare Company’s first play, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) was first performed back in 1987 — although the company’s origin really begins with Daniel Singer’s 25-minute version of Hamlet from 1981.  In 1994, Adam Long, Reed Martin, and Austin Tichenor created a six-part radio show for the BBC called The Reduced Shakespeare Radio Show.  Somehow, when I was in college, I got ahold of casette tapes of those six half-hour broadcasts, which is when I fell in love with the RSC.

In the ’90s, Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor began expanding the RSC’s repertoire by penning a series of new plays: The Complete History of America (Abridged), The Bible: The Complete Word of God (Abridged), and more.  I had the pleasure of seeing their performance of Completely Hollywood (Abridged) at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre a few years ago, and so when I read about their launching of a new play, The Complete World of Sports (Abridged), I eagerly snapped up some tickets.

While I’m not sure that any of these subsequent plays can really rival The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), I am happy to report that this new sports-themed show is quite a hoot.  In an hour and a half, the three-man troupe attempts to present before the audience the complete history of every sport known to mankind.

From what I’ve read, the RSC has different troupes that travel and perform their shows.  I was thilled that in the performance I saw, both Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor appeared.  Having listened to those radio show tapes many, many times, I know their voices quite well so it was a lot of fun to get to see them perform in person.  The third member of the ensemble was Matt Rippy, and he was great too — easily holding his own along with Reed and Austin.  The three had an extraordinary fluidity in their interactions — my favorite parts of the show were when all three actors were on stage bouncing off of one another.  A sharp script helps, of course, but it was exciting to see three actors who could be so quick and naturalistic with one another when interacting on-stage.  Particularly when things went awry — in the performance I saw it seems that Austin was having a spot of trouble with his lines, which led to some good fun at his expense when Reed and Matt noticed that he seemed to have lost his place in the scene for a moment. 

The Complete World of Sports (abridged) contains many of the RSC’s stylistic trademarks — an episodic structure, in which the actors merrily bounce from one topic to another through a series of short skits; lots of pop-culture references; a circus-act performance from Reed (in this case, a weird sequence with three seemingly-floating cigar boxes that really needs to be seen); and of course an episode of audience participation in the second act.  The structure is a bit familiar, but it works well.  The laugh-per-minute ratio of the show was quite high.  There were some groaners in the mix, but the jokes kept coming at a rapid pace so if a certain line didn’t land one could be sure another great joke was only seconds away.  There’s a particular Klingon ribbed condom joke that I thought was worth the price of admission alone.  But I am a geek.

If you have the chance to see a performance of The Complete World of Sports (Abridged), or any of the other RSC shows, I encourage you to do so!  You’ll have great fun, I assure you.  Visit their web-site:

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