The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged) Is Nearly Two Times Too Long

Time is an illusion, said Albert Einstein. No past, no future. Just existence in the dimension we perceive as the present.

The theory of relativity might explain why Shakespeare Dallas director Raphael Parry has taken a 90-minute comedy, The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged), and stretched it out to a mirthless 137 minutes. Because why does time matter if it doesn’t exist?

Watching this show outdoors in the wilting heat of a July evening at Samuell-Grand Amphitheatre, as the too, too solid flesh melts into a dew on a hard plastic chair, there are many minutes in which to ponder theories about time. Einstein’s. Doc Brown’s.

Jump back 20 years to when the script was created by members of San Francisco’s Reduced Shakespeare Company. The gimmick has three actors doing wacky shorthand versions of all of the Bard’s 37 plays, plus sonnets, in roughly an hour and a half. The original version used now-vintage references to O.J. Simpson and Prince. Shakespeare Dallas has updated with more recent pop culture nods to The Lion King, Keanu Reeves and the Cowboys, though a cooking-show bit that hinges on shouts of “Bam!” is a sad time-hop back a decade to chef Emeril Lagasse on cable TV.

How slow is this thing? It creeps in its petty pace, to paraphrase Macbeth, until the last syllable threatens to yawn into tomorrow and tomorrow. You could fall into a midsummer night’s dream, wake up and still not be at intermission. The three men onstage playing all the parts —-— Clay Wheeler, Anthony L. Ramirez, Steven Young — take 30 minutes to retell Romeo & Juliet, then speed up slightly to condense comedies and tragedies into a couple of lugubrious sketches. (Ramirez is funny when he puts the voices of Truman Capote and Paul Lynde into Shakespearean characters, though those are pretty obscure to anyone under 40.)

Something’s even more rotten in the second act. About the time they should be bidding everyone goodnight and drive safely, the guys onstage are dividing up the audience into sections representing Ophelia’s id, ego and super-ego. This bit goes on longer than the last act of Hamlet. Then they do the last act of Hamlet.

The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged) continues through July 24 at Samuell-Grand Amphitheatre, 1500 Tenison Parkway. Tickets $10-$15 ($10 donation requested for Tuesday and Wednesday performances) at the gate or shakespearedallas.org.

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