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Celebrating the Bard at Breakneck Speed

Hub Theatre Company presents highlights from all of Shakespeare’s plays in 90 minutes

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The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) is a 90-minute comedy that summarizes each of Shakespeare’s 37 plays. Tonight’s performance begins at 8 p.m. at Club Café. Also playing this weekend are a Saturday night show and a Sunday matinee. Photo courtesy of Hub Theatre Company of Boston

As Polonius said in the second act of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” In their latest production, the Hub Theatre Company of Boston is clearly taking the line—now a familiar idiom—seriously.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) is a 90-minute comedy that, with only three actors on stage, manages to tell the story of each of Shakespeare’s 37 comedies, tragedies, and histories—all in sidesplitting fashion. The play, written by actors Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Winfield, the founders of the Reduced Shakespeare Company, debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1987 and has subsequently been produced around the world, including in London and on Broadway. The Hub Theatre Company’s production of the parody is directed by Lauren Elias, cofounder of the Hub, and stars Boston-based actors Patrick Curran, William J. Moore, and Brooks Reeves.

Featuring a rapping Othello, a Titus Andronicus–themed cooking show, and Hamlet in reverse order, The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) distorts some of the most famous works of English literature in a delightfully silly manner.

The play relies heavily on improvisation, pop culture references, and audience participation, so performances differ from one night to the next. The production runs at Club Café in the South End through August 2. Tonight’s performance begins at 8 p.m. As an added bonus, the cost of a ticket includes a pre-show performance of the one-man show Hallucinating Shakespeare starring Michael Anderson. This opening act begins 45 minutes before the start of the main show.

This marks the second season for the Hub Theatre Company, a nonprofit whose mission is to produce entertaining, literate, and emotionally engaging theater in intimate venues and to cultivate a diverse audience by offering pay-what-you-can ticketing. The company is committed to developing emerging and mid-career theater artists in order to encourage them to remain in Boston.

The Hub’s website comically warns that The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) “is not recommended for patrons with heart ailments, bladder control problems or Ph.D.s in English history” due to its fast-paced hilarity. Whether you’re a Shakespeare scholar or a loyal user of SparkNotes, this is one production definitely worth seeing this summer.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) opens tonight, Friday, July 25, at 8 p.m. at Club Café, 209 Columbus Avenue, Boston, and runs through August 2. Tickets are sold on a “pay-what-you-can” basis, and can be purchased online here. They are selling quickly, so it’s best to order in advance. Club Café offers a 20% discount on the total food bill for audience members. To get there, take an MBTA Green Line trolley to the Arlington stop. From there, it is about a six-minute walk to Club Café, which is offering a 20% discount on food for audience members. For a full list of performance dates and times, click here. Performances of Hallucinating Shakespeare begin approximately 45 minutes prior to curtain time.

Samantha Pickette can be reached at pickette@bu.edu.

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