By Claire Duquette
For the Ashland Daily Press

Three actors, thirty-seven plays and ninety minutes.

Those are the parameters set for a fast, funny romp through all of William Shakespeare’s cannon in “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged).” A spirited, talented cast of Northland College Fourth Wall Wall drama club members is bringing this parody, written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Winfield to the Alvord Theatre stage through April 2.

The three actors, who speak directly to the audience (and will even get the audience involved) don’t have a lot of time and they have a lot of bard to get through – six pounds of play to be exact.

Our hostess for the evening is Evie Avery, a “preeminent Shakespearian scholar” who promises to guide us through the “plump fruit of Shakespeare’s productive loins.”

So we are carried through a hilariously pared down “Romeo and Juliet,” Titus Andronicus performed as a cooking show — “The Gorey Gourmet,” a rap version of Othello and all the comedies combined into one crazy tale of shipwrecks, mistaken identities and star-crossed love. And that’s just the start.

The three actors, Avery, Taylor Jensen and Tristan Brown, bring a great sense of timing, wit and energy – lots of energy – to the stage. In a twist that offers a tongue-in-cheek homage to the fact there were all-male casts in Shakespeare’s time, Brown plays all the female characters, his bearded, bewigged Juliet looming over Jensen’s Romeo, or his mad Ophelia prancing across the stage. The actors manage a staggering number of entrances and exits, silly props (hats off to props mistress Alyx Simon), swashbuckling sword fights, costume changes and pratfalls that keep the action – and laughter – going nonstop.

At the end (after several of the actors defect for a short time) we are treated to their version of Hamlet – and even a backwards Hamlet.

Director Laura Loucks, a Northland College junior majoring in sustainable community development says the drama club had been inactive for some time, but was reinstated last year and now has a core group of committed students. Loucks said in a college community where science is the key focus, an arts outlet is important.

The club selected this work because it didn’t have a big cast, it allows for a lot of improvisation and it is fun for all involved.

“A lot can go wrong,” Loucks said and laughed, “but that is part of the fun.”

While the 1987 play has its core the premise of performing all of Shakespeare’s works, it has been updated along the way, with references to cell phones and Google that wouldn’t have made the original.

Loucks said one of the joys of this play is that even though it’s based on Shakespeare, one doesn’t have to know anything about Shakespeare to enjoy the show.

“Don’t let the ‘Shakespeare’ throw you,” she said.

The Northland College 4th Wall drama club production of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)” directed by Laura Loucks, is on stage 7 p.m. Friday, March 31 and 2 p.m. Sunday, April 2 at the Northland College Alvord Theatre. There is no admission fee, but donations will be accepted at the door.

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