(left to right) Tony Ramirez as Julius Caesar, Clay Wheeler as Cleopatra, and Steven Young as Steve in "The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (abridged0 [revised]": photo by Linda Blase

(left to right) Tony Ramirez as Julius Caesar, Clay Wheeler as Cleopatra, and Steven Young as Steve in “The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (abridged0 [revised]”: photo by Linda Blase

Grab your picnic blanket and a bottle of wine; it’s that time again. The summer season of Shakespeare in the Park kicked off last weekend with a performance of “The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (abridged) [revised]” at the Samuell-Grand Amphitheater.

“The Compleat Wrks” is a parody based on Shakespeare, which makes it rare for Shakespeare Dallas’ stage because it wasn’t written by Shakespeare himself. It does contain some lines from Shakespeare, although not as many as you would think from a play based on his life and work.

The entire performance is acted out by three men — Clay Wheeler, Tony Ramirez and Steven Young — including the female roles, which believe it or not is not the silliest part of this play.

The play at least briefly touches on all Shakespeare’s work, although it focuses on his two most popular plays: “Romeo and Juliet” and “Hamlet.” So if you want to brush up on some Shakespeare before you see the show, those would be the best plays to SparkNotes.

Even if you don’t know anything about Shakespeare, you should be able to follow along with the storyline — what little storyline there is to follow — although you might miss a few jokes here or there. Even if you know Shakespeare’s work well, you will probably still miss jokes here and there because many of them are based on popular culture. But if you catch every reference from start to finish, you should probably consider going on a gameshow.

The play is fast-moving and packed with over-the-top satire and silliness. This might be a fun show for a younger audience, although there are many crude references throughout the performance. A few of the crude references might go over younger kids’ heads, but most are very blatant and will be easily understood by the average 8-year-old.

Also, fair warning: If you’d prefer to be a passive observer, don’t sit near the stage, especially in the middle. The actors frequently run into the audience to talk to audience members and solicit volunteers. Don’t be surprised if you get hit with a prop or two as well.

The play was written by Adam Lang, Daniel Singer and Less Winfield, and it’s directed by Raphael Parry. It runs until July 24. Also “Romeo and Juliet” begins this weekend.

Go to the website to learn more about Shakespeare in the Park or the plays.


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