Entertainment News

‘Complete’ Shakespeare, Crammed with Comedy

By Guy D’Astolfo
YOUNGSTOWN – After being forced to cancel its annual Shakespeare performances last year because of the pandemic, Mahoning Valley Players wanted to return with a comedy.

They will wind up doing all of them. Plus all of the tragedies and sonnets.

On June 18, 19 and 20, the troupe will present the madcap “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)” outdoors at Morley Pavilion, at the Wick Recreation Area of Mill Creek Park. Performances start at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free.

“We wanted to get back into the swing of things to make up for the shows we didn’t get to do last year,” said Kim Akins, executive director of MVP.

“The Complete Works” is a bit of a departure for the troupe because it’s not technically a work of The Bard. Written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winield, it instead deploys a three-man cast who touch on everything Shakespeare ever wrote and handle all of the roles.

Eric Kibler

MVP has assembled a veteran cast for the fast-paced and zany show, consisting of Jeremiah Kibler, Jenna Cintavey and Joanna Andrei. Eric Kibler is the director.

In “The Complete Works,” the actors endeavor to capture the gist of all 38 plays and 154 sonnets in one 90-minute take.

“They propose to get through it all,” Akins said. “It can’t be anything but funny. … I’m not an easy person to make laugh, but I watched a rehearsal and I laughed all the way through it. There is a Godzilla vs. King Kong fight in there, and a football game. One play is done double-time and then in reverse.”

The novel approach gives it across-the-board appeal to audiences. “It’s easy for Shakespeare novices to follow,” she said. “And experts will [enjoy] how they torture the language.”

While Morley Pavilion has a large covered stage, most of the action will take place in the grassy area in front, up close with the audience.

Mahoning Valley Players has made a name for itself by doing Shakespeare in the park shows every summer.

The troupe was started years ago by Akins, Liz Conrad and Richard Costes – each a lover of Shakespeare. The shows at Morley have become a tradition and are often the only time that The Bard’s work is presented in any given season in the area.

Staging the productions outdoors presents its own set of obstacles.

“Working outside is completely different than working inside,” Akins said. “The audience will not be roaming around. And the odds of you swallowing a bug are much higher. You also have to project [your voice] louder.”

Then, there is the unexpected.

“We’ve had children walk up on stage and decide they want to interact with a character,” Akins said.

Pictured: Jenna Cintavey, Jeremiah Kibler and Joanna Andrei comprise the cast of Mahoning Valley Players’ production of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged).”

Copyright 2021, AfterHoursYoungstown, Youngstown, Ohio.

Posted June 17, 2021.

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