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The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)

Stephen Smith Stout, Madeleine Bundy, and Lacy Allen in The Complete Works of Shakespeare (abridged) at WHAT Photo: Michael & Suz Karchmer

Review by Jaiden van Bork

Shakespeare is intimidating for actors, directors, and audiences alike. Despite the bard’s unfathomable contributions to modern theater and literature, his work remains something of a monstrosity to those who are not committed enough to dive into it completely. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) attempts to (sort of) bridge that gap — or at least convince non-Shakespeare-freak audiences to go see a show that claims to include every single piece of work that old Bill ever wrote. And in doing this, Complete Works itself becomes a bit of a beast for thespians to take on.

However, this has not deterred the remarkable talent of the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater (WHAT) from proudly producing this show this season, under the direction of R.J. Tolan, who brought us Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus at WHATjust last year. Tolan and company run a pretty tight ship, technically speaking, in this production. Cleverly designed set pieces and props, along with well-choreographed transitions between scenes provide numerous moments of subtle physical comedy. Appropriately goofy costumes and music accompany this, setting the mood just right for such a play. The lighting design is marvelous as well, although at times its sophistication seems undeserved by the entirely unserious plot. Nonetheless, this show has a strong technical backbone that adds a tremendous amount of character and energy.

Unfortunately, the production is ultimately held back by uninspired delivery that falls flat at a number of points throughout the show, leaving something to be desired. In addition, many moments of improvisation (which the play is somewhat contingent upon) simply do not land and add to the cringeworthy, underdeveloped feeling of certain parts of the show. One could attribute this to it being the opening night, or to the absence of cast member Lacy Allen, who was replaced by understudy Paige O’Connor for this performance — but I suspect that it is not so simple.

Many of these issues are contained to the first act, however — and after the intermission the show redeems itself somewhat with more developed performances and some genuinely hilarious bits of audience participation that bring an energetic atmosphere to the small theater.

Complete Works at WHAT is charming, to be sure. Despite its shortcomings, the production delivers a number of fun, laughable moments — particularly for readers (fond or not) of Shakespeare. However, these comedic moments feel unfinished and lacking, and are weakened by their somewhat rocky execution that seems uncharacteristic for this theater. With time, I can see this performance truly coming together.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) is performed Tuesdays – Saturdays, 8 p.m. at WHAT Julie Harris Stage, 2357 Rte. 6, Wellfleet. For tickets and information call 508.349.9428 or visit

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Ginger Mountain (MS Communications Media, BA Fine Arts/Teaching Certification K-12) has been part of the graphic design team at Provincetown Magazine since 2008. Ginger has worked as a creative director, individual contractor, and freelance designer with clients representing many areas —business software, consumer products, professional services, entertainment, and network hardware to name just a few — providing creative layout and development of a wide range of print media content. Her clients ranged from small local businesses to large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, from New Hampshire to Georgia

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