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Unseam'd Shakespeare unlocks all The Bard in 97 minutes

| Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, 8:09 p.m.
Andy Kirtland, Connor McCanlus and Nicholas Browne star in “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).” Credit: Elizabeth Ruelas

The Unseam'd Shakespeare Company kicks off its 20th season with a mini-marathon.

The company will sprint through all 37 of William Shakespeare's plays in 97 minutes with its production of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).”

Created in the late 1980s by the improvisational comedy troupe Reduced Shakespeare Company, the show began touring the United States in 1988 and has made repeated appearances at Pittsburgh Public Theater.

It also has become the longest-running comedy in London, where it has played for a decade.

The fast-paced, satiric romp incorporates lots of physical comedy, visual puns, improvisation and audience interaction that aims at drawing laughs from audience members who have never seen a Shakespeare play, as well as committed Elizabethan theater scholars.

“It's an irreverent valentine to Shakespeare,” says Andy Kirtland, the artistic associate for the Unseam'd Shakespeare Company. “It's three guys doing Shakespeare because they love him and want you to love him, too.”

Three area actors will perform the Unseam'd Shakespeare Company production — Kirtland plus Nicholas J. Browne and Connor McCanlus.

“It's our opportunity to put our spin on this,” says Kirtland, who points out that the Reduced Shakespeare Company script encourages companies who produce the show to make whatever changes they want to make it relevant to local audiences.

With that in mind, the Unseam'd Shakespeare Company is creating two versions: a more family-friendly PG-13 version for 2 and 8 p.m. performances and a more-adult-oriented R version for 10:30 p.m. shows.

It's an opportunity for the actors to make use of all those comedic moments that arise out of rehearsal and improvisation that get discarded because they're a little too outrageous.

“Now we can put them into the 10:30 show,” Kirtland says. “It's still going to be the same show but with something a little cheeky, to get in the younger crowd.”

Attracting a younger, wider audience was one of the motivating factors behind doing a show in February with a late-night option, Kirtland says.

Traditionally, the Unseam'd Shakespeare Company has performed in the summer. But that meant the company missed out on the area's many college-aged actors and audience members who had left for the summer.

“When Shakespeare is in (your) company's name, a lot of people shy away from you,” Kirtland says. “This may attract a different audience, a younger audience you don't get in the summer.”

Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or acarter@tribweb.com.

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