It has been said that just 15 minutes of good, hardy laughter can burn 10-40 calories a day.

With 97 minutes of hilarity at the ready on Robinhood Lane in Bloomington, why not skip the gym and laugh your way to your New Year's resolution, guilt-free, at Community Players Theatre?

The venue's current production, "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)," is an uproarious compilation of all 37 of the legendary Bard's works, performed at breakneck speed by three talented and tireless actors: Dave Montague, Chris Stevenson and Missy Freese, working as one well-oiled theatrical machine.

The script, written more than 30 years ago by Reduced Shakespeare Company founders Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield, begins with a parody of "Romeo and Juliet," followed by "Titus Andronicus" (as a cooking show) and an "Othello" rap.

A fourth wall is non-existent, improvisation is encouraged and audience participation is a must.

The second act is devoted entirely to "Hamlet" and — spoiler alert — it holds the world record for being the shortest performance of "Hamlet" ever, clocking in at just 43 seconds.

I wonder what they'll do with the extra time they have left? (wink)

At the authors' suggestion, pop culture references are added to each production by cast and director, giving this clever piece an unlimited shelf-life.

In this production, director Brett Cottone, with complete faith in his talented trio, gives them a pretty wide berth, and the end result is delightfully choreographed madness.

It is not at all necessary to be a lettered Shakespearean scholar to enjoy this production. A general familiarity will get you through.

It might be helpful, however, to brush up on your "Grey's Anatomy" to fully appreciate the impassioned send up of the beloved medical drama given to the hilt by Missy Freese. (I attended with a self-confessed super fan and she declared Ms. Freese's tribute "hilarious!")

It is both interesting and perhaps fortuitous that in the same week that Community Players is offering "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)," written by the founders of the Reduced Shakespeare Company, The Reduced Shakespeare Company itself will be presenting "William Shakespeare's Long Lost First Play ("Abridged") at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts.

Forsooth! The arts are alive in the Twin Cities, and I would encourage you to get catch both performances.

Consider it literary fitness ... the aerobic benefits alone will be worth it.

Stiller is a freelance writer who reviews plays for The Pantagraph.


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