There is so much to be savored in Shakespeare—but who's got the time to wade through all 37 plays? Most people, however, can afford 97 minutes, the time it takes the Reduced Shakespeare Company to whiz through Will at the Criterion Theatre in London's West End. Just don't expect any long, drawn-out balcony scenes.
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) is the addled brainchild of three Americans, one of whom, Adam Long, still appears in the three-man show. If you like costume changes (nearly 100), a 40-second backward reading of Hamlet and some 210 death scenes, several accompanied by vomiting, this Bard's for you. What makes it even funnier—for Long, at least—is that now they're doing all this in England, "in a proper West End theater."
The son of William, a bit-part TV actor, and Ann, a teacher, Long, 37, began doing Shakespeare shtick when he was 20. One of the actresses in a California Renaissance fair's 30-minute Hamlet broke her ankle; Long got her part and found his métier. Then he and fellow Californians Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield began condensing with a vengeance. The comedies were shrunk to a total of a minute and a half, the histories were reinvented as a football game, and the tragedies and romances got similarly short shrift.
After a world tour that prompted one critic to describe the trio as "whoopee cushions with legs," the group opened in the West End in 1996. While the company has expanded its abridged empire with The Complete History of America (abridged) one night a week, Long would be just as happy not to stretch as an actor. "If I'm 80 and still playing Ophelia in a dress," he says, "that's fine with me. It is a fun job."
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