The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)

Rated 4.0

It’s a comedy that includes all the works of Shakespeare. The puzzle is this: How in the world are they going to find something funny about Titus Andronicus?

The answer is surprisingly simple: Just allow the rubber-faced Michael R.J. Campbell to channel Julia Child as a vengeful Roman, Miles Miniaci to take a turn as a tongueless, armless daughter, and truss up Aaron Wilton as the about-to-be-slaughtered rapist. Voilà! The whole bloody mess is a cooking show.

The Sacramento Theatre Company’s trim and fit production is a lighthearted romp through the bard’s works, full of funny references for the English majors while lustfully pursuing decidedly low-brow comedy. In fact, it’s a reminder that Shakespeare himself never forgot to play to the groundlings.

Under the direction of Peggy Shannon, STC has added a few updated bits—including a number of references to Lysistrata, the scheduled STC production that was downsized and replaced by this coarse comedy. Well, in hard times, it’s best to keep one’s sense of humor, and if you can’t laugh at yourself, just laugh at Shakespeare.

The real charm in this production is in watching how hard the trio of Campbell, Miniaci and Wilton work to appear as if they’re not working. After all, in order to tangle Shakespeare, you’ve got to know it, and they do—forward and backward.

It’s a good night of light and bawdy fun, in the most traditional sense.