Complete Works of Shakespeare, funniest play around

Monday Magazine's resident Shakespeare buff talks the complete works of Shakespeare

Welcome Shakespearophile.  So guess what CWSA means.  Go on.  Take a stab at it. Canadian Women Soccer Association. Good one, but do try again. Cancel Without Salacious Alacrity. Now you are just being silly.  Last chance! Change With Social  Activism. The last one reads like a bad ’80s bumper sticker.

It stands for COMPLETE WORKS OF SHAKESPEARE {ABRIDGED}. It must be the funniest play about and around the Bard ever.  We had our giften cast read it out at the Imagine Cafe last month.  There were seventy-five laughs in just ninety minutes.  The cast sat at a long table and just read it aloud.  Seventy-five laughs.  Now the cast is very talented but all it took was reading the words in the right order.

Katherine Hepburn, while making “The Lion In Winter” told the young actors “Please stop acting and just say the words.  The script is so good any effort will get in the way.” Oh sure rehearse hard and be exactly well-timed but just let it ease out of you.  This we can do.  You surf the genius.  No need to push the river.

People often ask if there is a deeper meaning to CWSA.  What is more meaningful than joy?  The story?  An acting troupe wants to do all the plays of Shakespeare but pare it down so they can cover all the tragedies, comedies, and histories in one evening.  So they skip a few things.  A lot of things.  They argue.  They cry.  We laugh.  Intermission rolls up and they have skewered them all, all but “Hamlet.”  The whole of the second half is dedicated to dissecting and desiccating that play with their play CWSA.

It is a laugh riot.  They do “Hamlet” much-abridged in forty-two seconds, and then do it backwards in forty-three seconds.  This is a play that really has the goods on being playful forwards or backwards.

Our cast and director can hardly wait to get into the script and parse out the laughs they know will work and the laughs that will surprise everybody.  We may even witness a rare event in this play.  We call “The rolling laugh.”  What is it?  So glad you asked.  We are trained to restart our dialogue right after a laugh peaks and falls away.  What if the audience simply can not or will not stop laughing?  What do you do?  You SHOUT!  It may come in this play this year.  It will come this season.

The rolling laugh is a state of comic grace.  Throw away lines incite roars.  Exposition or set-up lines become hilarious.  You simply soldier on and bark it out.  Tears are shed, ribs ache, and faces will hurt three days later.  Five years ago we did it.  It was “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  The Mechanicals crazy show at the end.  Sweet insanity!  This season CWSA will conjure the rolling laugh back to our stage by the sea.

— Robert Light is the artistic director of the Vancouver Island Shakespeare Arts

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