Burbage's 'Abridged' Shakespeare best deal of summer


When Jeff Church decides to put on a show, take heed!

Church has teamed up with two of his Burbage Theatre cohorts, James Lucey and Andrew Iacovelli, to put on London’s longest running comedy, “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare [Abridged].” And they are doing it for free at 7 p.m. through August 7.

I left pad and pen home, deciding to catch the play at the Brewer’s Guild, 461 Main St. in Pawtucket, in the courtyard surrounded by very old mill buildings with a unique micro-brewery at one end. Chairs are available, but feel free to bring your own because after word gets out it is quite possible that audience numbers will exceed the chair supply.

With thunderclouds looming overhead on opening night, the production was moved inside a quaint old building opposite the brewery, where for a most reasonable price you can purchase a glass before, after or during the intermission.

I’ve seen the hilarious comedy a couple of times and thought I knew what to expect. The fun starts before the prologue and continues nonstop as the trio put on an abridged “Hamlet.”

But wait. Only 87 minutes had passed, and they promised 90. So they conclude by doing it backwards in three minutes.

Church, who is one of the funniest actors in Rhode Island, has added some topical humor, hilarious asides, and what looks like a few ad-libs. His manic acting rubs off on his co-stars, as the three work up a sweat (literally), never slowing down the pace.

Thirty-seven plays are presented in 90 minutes, with the first act taking on the comedies and tragedies, intermixing lines and plots while rapidly changing costumes, wigs, props, characters and moods. There’s audience participation, which the opening night full house ate up.

At the end of the first act, Church is ready to send everyone home, since they have covered all the plays. Wait a minute. What about “Hamlet?”

After a short beer break, we are treated to a “Hamlet” that is so crazy and accessible it can be enjoyed by novices and those of us who have seen enough of the prince of Denmark to last a lifetime.

Burbage’s take on this zany comedy is surely the highlight of the summer theatre scene, a wonderful gift from this growing company that is making its mark on the Rhode Island theatre scene. Go see it, rain or shine!


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