The “Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” covers 37 plays in 94 minutes.
And how does a cast of three do that?
Ross Martineau, T.J. Hamilton and Bailey Hutton smile and laugh at that question, because they know the answer.
It is most definitely not easy.
It’s fast, furious and frantic at times. Chaotic comes to mind.
Most important, it’s darn funny, with nearly 50 costume changes between the three of them and reaching for props in tight, sweaty quarters.
Good thing these guys trust each other.
“We have very little room behind the set here, and we’re making those moves with two feet of space as one person is throwing on wigs and a dress and another person is grabbing a cut-off head,” Hamilton said after rehearsal Tuesday night. “You have to be able to know exactly where that person is going to be backstage and on the front of the stage.”
Kauai Community Players’ production of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged),” written by Adam Long and directed by Martineau, opens Friday, March 29, and runs through Sunday, April 14, at the Puhi Theatrical Warehouse.
The three-man show parodies the plays of William Shakespeare, with each play being performed in comically shortened or merged form by only three actors.
When people think Shakespeare, they think serious drama, tragedy, Elizabethan-era language. Hutton, who admits he’s not a Shakespeare scholar, says forget all that.
“This is not your typical Shakespeare,” he said.
“It is unconventional Shakespeare, total comedy,” Hutton said. “Whatever your preconceived notions of what Shakespeare might be, get rid of them and come see the show.”
“I’ve been telling my friends it’s the complete farce of William Shakespeare,” Hamilton added.
In this KCP version, they do a rap song to “Othello.”
The histories become a football game.
There’s talking backwards and walking backwards.
“It’s very unconventional,” Martineau said. “I like to say it’s either The Marx Brothers or The Three Stooges doing Shakespeare.”
Some plays are mentioned. Others, like “Romeo and Juliet” and “Hamlet,” are given more stage time. But rest assured, after 94 minutes, you’ll know more about William Shakespeare leaving than coming.
Martineau acted in “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” 12 years ago on Kauai, and a second time a year later when it was brought back due to popular demand.
He was delighted to have the chance to direct and act in it a decade later.
“It’s in my blood,” he said.
Between them, the three men play about 50 characters. They are in constant motion — other than when they are dying or wounded and prone on stage, depending on the role. It’s running, turning, twisting, falling and dashing backstage and then returning to the main stage in a different costume, all done in a big, big hurry.
In one scene they might emerge holding a sword. The next, wearing a crown or a mask. And the next, a ghost might appear — or a toy Godzilla.
They joke that it starts off at 30 mph and picks up speed as it goes, clocking 100 mph later.
Even if a line is missed here or there, and it happens (sometimes by design, sometimes not), they count on each other to keep the momentum rolling.
“The train leaves the station and there’s no turning back,” Martineau said.
They describe it as 94 minutes of laughter, a hard-charging comedy with short clips and quips.
“If you don’t like what’s going on, the channel changes in the next 30 seconds,” Hutton said. “None of the bits are that long. It’s just a matter of time until we get you to grin.”
It’s physically demanding, so it helps that all three are in good shape. Still, such is the workload that Martineau has lost four pounds since rehearsals started in January
“It’s very much like doing P90X every night of the week, while saying your lines,” Hamilton said.
Each actor said this might be the toughest show they’ve done. Yet they are comfortable heading toward opening night that it will be a success because they have struck a Shakespearean bond.
“The show definitely relies on chemistry,” added Martineau, who plays all the female roles.
“I have been blessed, I like to say, to be the beauty among the beasts,” he said.
When asked why he got all the female roles, he laughed.
“With a face like this?” Martineau said.
Martineau, who also selected the costumes, found most of the props, and helped build the set, had this to say about directing and acting: “Two words. ‘Never again,’” he said, laughing.
But, seriously, he would.
“For me, it is just a joy to do this show. It’s fun. It’s work. But as a comic actor, this is the pinnacle,” Martineau said. “I think this is really one of the funniest shows ever written.”
Hamilton said the most fun has been spending time with his co-stars.
“From the get-go, no matter how hard the rehearsal is, we’re having a good time,” he said.
Hutton has loved the challenges of trying different ways to elicit laughs.
“The one way that does work, it’s like a victory to find it,” he said.
Martineau said based that, on previous runs of the play, he knows it’s a success when someone who watched it says this:
“I knew nothing about Shakespeare. I still know nothing about Shakespeare, but I loved the show and I’m coming to see it again. “
Martineau said there are three questions to ask of those who might see the show:
“Do you love Shakespeare?”
“Do you hate Shakespeare?”
“Do you know nothing about Shakespeare?”
“If you answer ‘yes’ to any of those questions, you will love our show,” he said with a grin.
Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or firstname.lastname@example.org.