‘Shkspr’ fun has been condensed

By Guy D’Astolfo

Hop, Skip and Jump Productions has a new location for its next production, but the material will be familiar territory.

The theater company will stage “The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr [Abridged]” at Main Street Theater in Columbiana the next two weekends.

It’s a new venue for the troupe, but HSJ should feel right at home: the troupe did “The Bible: The Complete Word of God [Abridged]” in 2007 at the B&O Station in Youngstown.

Both works are the product of Reduced ShakespearE Company, and they are similar in style. Each takes a lengthy body of writing and condenses it with dizzying speed, rapid-fire one-liners and slapstick antics.

Kyle Snyder is the owner and driving force behind Hop, Skip and Jump. He said “Shkspr” requires cast members who are as close as brothers for the comedy to be fully realized. That’s because the physical gags require precise timing, and the overall humor plays off the personalities of the performers. The three men in the cast must communicate with the audience as inexperienced actors who are putting on a play — and failing.

Snyder, a Lisbon native, will be joined on stage by Kevin Wells of North Canton and Jason Green of Salem. Wells is a frequent HSJ corroborator, and was in “The Bible.” Green, a newcomer to HSJ, has appeared in more than 50 local productions, most recently “Dracula” at the Youngstown Playhouse and “Bye-Bye Birdie” at Trumbull New Theatre.

Before they even started rehearsing, Snyder, Wells and Green spent time getting into the proper mind-set. “You have to let the funny happen,” said Snyder. “You can’t push it, or it’s gone. We had to be friends to have the necessary connection. For the first few rehearsals, we would just sit around and have beers and play darts, just to get familiar with each other.”

The stage for “Shkspr” is bare, except for a backdrop that looks like an Elizabethan-era theater. The cast does, however, use a variety of props — and some rapid scene changes.

“We’ll do a costume change in one second that would ordinarily take 30 seconds,” said Snyder.

True to its title, “The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr” does touch on all 37 of the Bard’s works ... with shortcuts. “It condenses all 16 of his comedies into one,” noted Snyder.

Those who are unfamiliar with Shakespeare — or even repelled by his work — need not be afraid. In fact, they might be among the most welcome. “Our slogan is, ‘if you like Shakespeare, you’ll like our show. But if you hate Shakespeare, you’ll love our show.’”

Truth is, almost everybody knows something about Shakespeare; his dialog seeped into the culture centuries ago and is part of Western culture. This stock info is all that’s needed to get the humor in “Shkspr.”

“It’s rare that [an audience member] would have no idea of what we’re talking about, and even if they do, we explain it,” said Snyder.