Laughing at Shakespeare

Review of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” at Theatre 99.

“The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” elevates comedy’s ability to communicate intellectual ideas. But it also challenges the audience to obtain a prerequisite knowledge before enjoying nearly two hours of cross-dressing, slapstick humor.

This production of “Complete Works,” which different companies play across the United States, will not disappoint. The play sails through Shakespeare’s 37 plays while maintaining respect for the playwright’s significance to Anglo-American culture.

Greg Tavares, Steven Shields and Timmy Finch star and direct this production, which plays at Theatre 99 as part of the 2013 Piccolo Fringe series. The actors display an impressive multi-faceted talent for acting, singing and choreography. But their simultaneous mastery of comedic timing and enunciation worthy of the Bard are regrettably underappreciated – sidelined by cheers for their falling down and theatrical screams.

The overwhelming majority of the audience has had at least one interaction with Shakespeare, according to a show of hands at the start of the performance. Yet the intensity of their laughter spiked at moments when one of the male performers feigned discomfort over kissing another playing a woman. For an audience that cheered at a reference condemning South Carolina’s homophobic marriage laws, such behavior was inadvertently reactionary. Knowledge of Shakespeare evidently does not contribute enough to cultural enlightenment.

This was not the lone instance of questionable audience reaction.

Disconcertingly, a mention about Shakespeare’s wife Anne Hathaway produced an outburst of chuckles. Some in the audience may have been under the impression that this factual statement was an anachronistic joke about the Academy Award winning actress. But to be fair, Adolf Hitler found his way into a monologue, and moments of confusion were bound to occur.

Kevin Williamson, theater critic for The New Criterion, found similarly ill-timed laughter troubling at this year’s Broadway production of “Macbeth.” This is hardly a new phenomenon, but it should make us question humor’s relationship to drama.

To borrow from the design of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater in London: our culture is certainly not in the pits of Hell, but we are not soaring in Heaven’s skies either.

Getting to Know a Couple of “Reformed Whores”

 “Reformed Whores” will be running at Theatre 99 in Charleston as part of the Piccolo Spoleto Festival from May 24-28. The musical comedy duo, Katy Frame and Marie Cecile Anderson, perform songs about love and life in what they describe as a “raunchy country-western hoedown.”

Listen to an audio clip of the two “Reformed Whores” talking and singing about their show. (Audio by Christina Riley)

Who are the “Reformed Whores”?
Frame: We are a musical comedy duo, singing in a country western style. We have an hour long show we do. It’s full of raunchy fun, which incorporates music into a raunchy hoedown.

How did the duo come to be? 

The two ladies of "Reformed Whores"

The two ladies of “Reformed Whores.”
Photo: Christina Riley


Frame: Marie Anderson and I met at a mutual friend’s birthday party about three years ago. We started talking about music, and she found out I play the accordion and she plays the ukulele. And we thought we should start a band and it really started organically from there.

Are there any other “Reformed Whores” in your band?
Frame: No, it’s just us. We play the accordion and the ukulele. But on our CD, we do have a full band.

Where does the inspiration for your songs come from?
Frame: Definitely from real life experiences—break ups, relationships, things that have been bugging us that we think should be talked about more… things that I think are relatable to both men and women, but we are girls so it’s things that are from a female perspective.

How would you describe the genre of music you play?
Frame: I would say country-western comedy.

How would you describe your performance?
Frame: It’s kind of a concert but it’s also very theatrical depending on the performance.

How did the name “Reformed Whores” come about?
Frame: Actually, my roommate had a playlist on her computer and it was titled Reformed Whores and I loved it. I loved the concept. I brought it into Marie when we were looking for names and it just really made a lot of sense for what we were talking about.

Citizen Critics: Le Grand C

We love reviewing shows, but now it’s your turn. See what our citizen critic thought of Friday’s performance of Le Grand C by Compagnie XY.

Nancye Starnes

Nancye Starnes lives in Charleston and estimates that this is her 15th Spoleto Festival.  She was astounded by the “extreme athleticism” of the acrobats in Compagnie XY.
“I look forward to Spoleto all year long because of the opportunity to see incredible things like this.”

One for the money, four for the show

With so much theatre at this year’s Spoleto and Piccolo Spoleto festivals, it’s hard to choose. But since you have to, here are four recommendations from our Theatre Blog Editor, Josh Austin.

Oedipus
Based on the classic Greek tragedy by Sophocles, this Spoleto Festival USA production comes to us from the Nottingham Playhouse Theatre Company. The show runs June 4-8 at Memminger Auditorium. For ticketing information, click here.

Bullet Catch
Writer and performer Rob Drummond, as his alter ego William Wonder, explores the history of the famous finale magic trick. This Spoleto Festival USA show runs June 5-9 at the Emmet Robinson Theatre at College of Charleston. For ticketing information, click here.

Clybourne Park
Piccolo Spoleto brings us this show, the winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Set in Chicago in 2009, the show explores gentrification in Chicago in a modern-day take on Raisin in the Sun. The show runs May 24-26, 28 and 29 at PURE Theatre. For ticketing information, click here.

Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson
This rock musical from the Village Repertory Company brands the seventh president as a guitar-playing leader of the American Frontier. This Piccolo Spoleto show runs May 30-June 2 and June 6-8 at the Woolfe Street Playhouse. For ticketing information, click here.