Upstage Left has marked a notable track record with its annual summer productions in Elings Park. These performances are proving to be the perfect excuse for a twilight picnic at Godric Grove’s peerless lookout, as well as demonstrations of substantial theater by a homegrown cadre of Santa Barbara whiz-kids.
This year, director Cheri Steinkellner and her troupe of 12 plant both feet firmly in comedy with the riotous The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), the signature work that launched the Reduced Shakespeare Company (RSC) in 1987. This loosely patched series of parodies is a malleable piece of lunacy that leaves plenty of room for improvisation and adaptation. RSC’s script calls for three actors, but ramping it up to 12 brings enhanced visual chaos to routines like “History Play Football” (which illustrates the English history plays as a passing of the crown downfield), while providing a diverse roster for sub-group skits, each brightly delivered. Add to this the fact that five of these versatile players double as musicians, and you have every reason to believe in the virtues of a slightly unabridged abridgement. Sure, Complete Works doesn’t really boil down the Bard, but it does deliver irreducible mirth.