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"William Shakespeare's Long Lost First Play (Abridged)," being staged Friday night at the BCPA, features founding Reduced Shakespeare Company fathers Reed Martin, left, and Austin Tichenor, right. Teddy Spencer is the third man out.

It wasn't so much the fact that the play was long-lost.

It was more the fact that it was just long.

As in really, really — REALLY — long.

Rear-busting, "Heaven's Gate"-meets-"Gone With the Wind"-meets-"Titanic"-long. 

Around 100 hours' worth.

With enough plots for, oh, say 37 plays.

And a cast of intersecting thousands, with names like Hamlet, Puck, Ariel, Macbeth and Juliet. 

"He was 17 years old and, well, it just wasn't very good," assesses Reed Martin, writer, performer and managing partner of the less-is-more-loving Reduced Shakespeare Company.

Hence, "William Shakespeare's Long Lost First Play (Abridged)," coming to the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts in all its pared-down glory at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

The RSC boys did what they had to do after the phone-book-thick manuscript was discovered next to a pile of bones in a hole in a parking lot in Leicester, England.

That's where the trim-happy trio had parked their van, aka, Titus Vandronicus.

"It was gigantic," says Reed. 

The manuscript, not the gaping sinkhole. 

"Well, it turns out that it was the first play Shakespeare wrote ... the one that he abandoned and buried in the hole after its world premiere," reveals Reed matter-of-factly.

"I guess he figured there was so many plots and characters that maybe he should do 37 different plays instead of one that was 100 hours long." 

Good thing he did, too ... or else the Reduced Shakespeare Company's original reason for being might have been reduced to a footnote in theater history.

"It wasn't feasible for us to perform, so we edited it down from 100 hours to 100 minutes and gave it its world premiere two years ago," says Reed.

The rest is history.

Well, OK, it's strictly their history, since the Reduced Shakespeare Company  made up the entire preceding news account, all the better to justify their latest celebration of cutting to the chase.

In their edit, an ancient grudge pits Puck, plucked from "Midsummer Night's Dream,"  against Ariel, blown in from "The Tempest."

"Puck sort of spins out of control," says Reed.

The result is a topsy-turvy take on the Bard's canon that (for starters) makes strange bedfellows out of indecisive Hamlet and control-freak Lady Macbeth ... allows the Three Weird Sisters from "King Lear" to hook up with the Three Weird Witches from "Macbeth" ... and (you knew this was coming) sends "Comedy of Errors" boy-toy-from-Syracuse Dromio scrambling up Juliet's Veronese balcony.

"Williams Shakespeare's Long Lost First Play (Abridged)" is the 10th production to suck the oxygen out of its subject's long-winded sails, a tradition originally born during a pass-the-hat act that played a string of California renaissance fairs in the early 1980s.

In the three decades since, the troupe has graduated to slightly tonier venues like, oh, the White House, the Kennedy Center, the Lincoln Center and assorted theaters in London's West End.

Ironically, the RSC boys are running into themselves, so to speak, this weekend in the Twin Cities.

By sheer coincidence, B-N's Community Players are in the second weekend of rendering the RSC's most famous creation, "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)" ... at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with a 2:30 p.m. matinee Sunday. 

All of the RSC's original parodies are performed exclusively around the world for three years by themselves; thereafter, they are made available for production by local theater groups, like Community Players.

"It's not unlike sending your kid off to college: you hope it all goes well," says Reed. "And we know, from the reading reviews and stuff on social media, that our wishes usually come true."

"William Shakespeare's Long Lost First Play (Abridged)," now in its second year and still exclusive to the RSC, is the troupe's first B-N stop in a decade.

Their last time through, in 2008 at the BCPA, it was on behalf of "Completely Hollywood (Abridged)," in which 175 classic movies — from silent to present era — were short-changed over the course of two hours.

As Reed's producing-writing-managing partner, Austin Tichenor, noted in a past GO! interview, the troupe's central creative tenet is that the RSC embodies a uniquely American approach to the world at large.

"It's the approach that says, 'let's get on with it and reduce it to a manageable size. We all have short attention spans and we're less reverent of tradition.

"Here in the USA, we do things our way. That's why the company has been so successful internationally: We're playing on a truth about American stereotypes."


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