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By Molly Cox

In ninety minutes, the three men of The Reduced Shakespeare Company, Reed Martin, Teddy Spencer, and Austin Tichenor, portray a dizzying number of characters from actual Shakespearean plays, such as Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest, Macbeth, and several others. Tichenor and Martin are also the writers and directors of this hot mess of a masterpiece, William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged).

The loose plot of this play comes from, “an ancient manuscript discovered in a treasure-filled parking lot in Leicester, England.” This manuscript miraculously turns out to be young William Shakespeare’s very first play, which is one hundred hours long and includes characters and shreds of story from many of his later (i.e. real) plays.

The cast members decide to perform a condensed version of the fictional mega-play, jumping from character to character and switching costumes in a frenzy. Jokes and unforgivable puns spill forth without pause, many of which you need to be familiar with Shakespeare to get. Even if some of the wordplay and references fall flat, there is still plenty of humor in this show, such as Spencer’s exaggerated facial expressions, unskilled cross dressing, and the bizarrely funny puppet that is one of the three Weird Sisters (witches) from Macbeth.

This play is a riot for someone anyone with a generous sense of humor. The Reduced Shakespeare Company swings for the comedic fences in William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged), but I prefer my Shakespeare to not be reduced or abridged. Some of the slapstick humor is definitely enjoyable, and the audience definitely has a lot of fun. Although Martin and Tichenor are talented, seasoned veterans of the stage this piece misses the mark for me with its lack of cohesion and coherence.

William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged) runs through May 8th at the Folger Shakespeare Library.