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'Complete History' flies through America's past

| Thursday, Sept. 20, 2007

School is in session at Delmont's Apple Hill Playhouse, and the subject for the next two weekends is History 101.

Fortunately, audiences won't experience the boring lectures and dry textbooks that just about every school student has encountered on his or her way to learning about our nation's past.

Instead, "The Complete History of America (Abridged)" is a fast-paced series of vaudeville sketches, word-association games, puns and parodies that, according to its originators, covers "600 years of history in 6,000 seconds." The play originally was produced and performed by The Reduced Shakespeare Company, a three-man comedy troupe internationally known for its slapstick interpretations of serious subjects.

Apple Hill's version of "Complete History" stars Bob Capanna of Greensburg, Justin Mohr of Plum and Kevin Bass of Pittsburgh, who, according to director Nate Newell, also of Greensburg, are "three of the best comedic actors in this region. They're hilarious. If I could put together a comedy Dream Team, they would be it."

Newell says the show gives the local actors an opportunity to shine as they weave their way through the pages of history, putting their own spin on historical events and famous and not-so-famous people. Part of the fun of the spoof is that it involves the audience.

"Don't come and expect to sit in the corner and think the actors will stay within the proscenium (stage)," he says. "There are times when they're out in the audience talking to people. It's very interactive."

Capanna says his brief impersonations are of men and women, including a president or two, the wife of America Vespucci -- the explorer for whom the country is named -- and a Vietnamese woman. It takes a lot of energy to be able to switch characters so quickly and become a different person in a short amount of time.

"It's definitely a lot of work," he says, adding that the biggest challenge for the three actors is in their pacing.

"In order to be funny, this show relies heavily on timing," he says. "The three of us play so many characters in 90 minutes; it keeps us on our toes. If the timing's not there, the jokes are lost."

The director says "The Complete History of America (Abridged)" is not meant to be a serious or life-changing production in any way.

"You can sit and enjoy it, like seeing a Jim Carrey or Adam Sandler movie," he says. "You'll have a good time. Bring your sense of humor."

Additional Information:

'The Complete History of America (Abridged)'

When: 8 p.m. today through Saturday and Sept. 27-29; 2 p.m. Sunday

Admission: $16-$14

Where: Apple Hill Playhouse , 275 Manor Road, Delmont

Details: 724-468-5050

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