by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield
Arts Club, Granville Island
November 25-January 8
$27.50 - 35.50

The award-winning local company, Rock Paper Scissors, is well known for their partly scripted, partly improvised Theatresports-like comedy. And what could be a better vehicle for them—talented comic actors riffing on Shakespeare’s famous stuff, condensing his 37 lengthy, complex plays into a couple of hours. It seems like a slam-dunk. But this production is more like the current edition of Vince Carter and the Raptors: a few good ideas and some spectacular individual moves can’t quite salvage an uneven, uninspired effort.

Toby Berner, David C. Jones and Brad MacNeil play all the parts in faux-Elizabethan garb. It’s funny watching these burly guys race around in codpieces and, in the case of Jones who plays most of the women, bad comic wigs, but the pace is never as frantic or funny as it should be. There are far too many long stretches where they casually chat with the audience to set up a gag with a minimal payoff. I was surprised how boring it was to hear them talk about how boring it is when Shakespeare is taught in school.

Some of the script changes are clever. Romeo says, “Call me but love and…” Juliet interrupts: “Call me what? Butt love?” Or the Nurse: “Men are all dissemblers. They take things apart and reassemble them.” And a few of the short skits are hilarious—Titus Andronicus as a cooking show, Macbeth in heavy Scottish accents, the white guys’ rap Othello. But even while I was laughing at the latter two I was thinking how familiar those routines are. Titus is one of the few truly original, radically imaginative gags in the show. A lot of the first act feels like retread Bob and Doug Mackenzie. The second act, all Hamlet, resembles an extended Wayne and Schuster skit with an audience-participation segment in the middle.

The three guys are clearly talented comedians and much of the opening night audience seemed to be having a great time. But ultimately it felt tired to me, as if they’d already been doing the show for too long. I found myself admiring two things near the end. Berner’s performance as Hamlet—not their send-up of the play but his straight reading of some of the famous lines. And Laertes’ funny hat. That was my evening in a nutshell.

Jerry Wasserman

last updated: Thursday, December 30, 2004 3:31 PM
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