DE PERE, Wis. (WFRV) – To cap run of William Shakespeare plays – six full productions in three months by theaters in Northeastern Wisconsin* – along comes a zany homage to all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays.
Evergreen Theater of greater Green Bay is diving into the three-actor “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [revised]” in six more performances to Oct. 2 in Webb Theatre of St. Norbert College.
The players were a bit tentative at first on opening night Friday – theirs being a daunting task – but performances smoothed to fluid. Eventually, the audience was putty in the hands of Andrew Delaurelle, Tyler Wood and Gus Kroenke.
The three portray Daniel Singer, Adam Long and Jess Winfield, the show’s creators, whose roots in improvisational theater are clear.
Limber improv stuff – playing with the audience – became a breeze for the local actors. A highlight Friday night was building an elaborate audience-participation bit around an on-stage scream delivered by a girl, age 10 or so.
Every performance is different for this show, which has been around for 40-something years in continually reshaped forms. It keeps getting updated to fit changes, such as the phrase “The noble kinsmen” becoming “the mobile kinsmen,” in a nod to cell phones.
Early on, there’s tease of how history can get messed up by electronic glitches. A biography of Shakespeare is read from a hand-held device, and the “facts” include such tidbits that “Shakespeare invaded Poland in 1939.”
The humor in the show is everything-but-the-kitchen-sink style. That includes sight gags, word gags, quick costume changes, puppetry, audience participation, double entendre meanings and lines and scenes delivered at a frenetic pace.
Othello, the Moor of Venice, becomes a sight gag with vessels strung around the neck as for mooring boats.
Macbeth is part of tease of Scotland, the players being golfers on a course battling in “swordplay” with their golf clubs.
This production is localized, too. Audiences will see a “G” banner and hear a chant of “Go Pack Go.”
Director Sandy Zochert and her cast build and build on the fun of show, with the players showing individual skills.
Andrew Delaurelle is twice featured in stand-up monologues, first telling jokes and then as if on a phone with his partners, who are sight unseen at the time.
Gus Kroenke’s voice booms as his characters go through assorted bungling frays.
Jess Winfield turns the silliness to serious when delivering a monologue that explores a depth of sensitivity, thought and feeling.
The performance starts with a serious note. Sandy Zochert introduces herself and the show and then honors the memory of Stuart Smith, a great actor and story teller who died in early August, leaving many area theaters “suffering the loss.”
The show zips through many of Shakespeare’s plays with snapshot scenes or maybe just the name of the title. Getting the most time are the two most famous plays.
“Romeo and Juliet” offers a bunch of kooky costuming and tongue-in-cheek takes on indelible scenes. Funny.
“Hamlet” includes a play-with-in-a-play in the first place. This time, hand puppets tell the dastardly deeds in comically dastardly ways. Funny.
The show is smart and stupid and funny at the same time. That’s entertainment.
*- “Much Ado About Nothing” – Play-by-Play Theatre, Green Bay, and Summit Players Theatre, traveling; “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” – The Forst Inn Arts Collective, Tisch Mills, and Vintage Theatre, Oshkosh; “Hamlet” – Seven Ages Theatricals, Sheboygan; “The Tempest,” Door Shakespeare, Baileys Harbor.
Running time: Two hours, 24 minutes
Remaining performances: 7 p.m. Sept. 24; 2 p.m. Sept. 25; 7 p.m. Sept. 29, 30, Oct. 1; 2 p.m. Oct. 2
Info: snc.edu/tickets or evergreentheater.org
Creative: Playwrights, aside from William Shakespeare – Adam Long, Daniel Singer, Jess Winfield; director – Sandy Zochert; assistant to the director – Dave Zochert; stage manager – Raechael Wozniak-Sanford; lighting designer – John Calliari; costume designer – Judy Patefield; sound designer – Sophie Goska; set designer – Sandy Zochert; master carpenter – Michael Palubicki; property master – Karen Konshak; hair, make-up designer – Jackie Ploor; photographer – Jean Shonkwiler; production coordinator – Dawn Byrne; costume assistants – Ruth Novak, Lynn Thompson; run crew – Presley Ellison; fight choreographer – Michael Palubicki; technical director – Jesse Cotherman
Daniel Singer – Andrew Delaurelle
Adam Long – Tyler Wood
Jess Winfield – Gus Kroenke
NEXT: Young Actors: “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical,” Dec. 1-4 (six performances). Mainstage: “A Christmas Story” by Jean Shepherd, etc., Dec. 9-11, 15-18.
THE VENUE: The 190-seat Neil and Mary Webb Memorial Theatre is the smaller of two theaters in St. Norbert College’s Abbot Pennings Hall of Fine Arts, 315 3rd Street, De Pere. The space has an amphitheater feel with its sloped seating area. The stage is one-of-a-kind thrust stage, meaning it “thrusts” into the audience space. Seating is on fabric seats of the college’s dark green color, with metallic backs and wood arm rests. Handrails are placed in stairway aisles leading to seats. Above can be seen the “innards” of a theater for lighting and other technical needs. The production booth is on the second level above the audience entry in a rear corner. People in front rows can practically reach out and touch performers when the performers are on the stage lip. Any seat in the theater is close to the action. The space is busy all year around with community and campus productions.
THE PEOPLE: Neil and Mary Webb were husband and wife. Neil Webb was president of St. Norbert College from 1973 to 1983. He earlier headed the St. Norbert psychology department. He left academics for a while before becoming president of Dominican College in California. In December 1987, Neil and Mary Webb died in an airplane crash in California in an act of sabotage by a disgruntled employee of the airline. That was shortly before the Hall of Fine Arts was to be remodeled with a small theater in the plans. Neil Webb had many friends in the greater Green Bay community and had the reputation, so his name was used to raise funds for the theater.