Onstage is a great gray castle built from paper and cardboard and an unidentified object with a safari-print blanket draped over it, displaying a blown-up likeness of Shakespeare's face. Inflatable Easter bunnies litter the stage.
A bleached blond man with a lisp and a penchant for spandex introduces himself as the show's director, Doug Ayman, and invites the crowd to a magical place he calls "Shakespeare-land."
And so begins an hour or so of absolute hilarity. As the title suggests, the show is a spoof of high school productions, and no detail is overlooked.
Director Ken Keech (who, appropriately, plays the role of Ayman) goes to great lengths to recreate the amateur feel and chaotic absurdity of a school play, from the rousing cheers every time "The Mick" (the school's star quarterback, played by Jon Karpinos) enters the stage to the boos and occasional shoe thrown on stage at the band nerd, Neener (Nathan Blumenthal).
The additional cast of characters is superbly ridiculous. There's Tad (Matt Mercer), the ex-lacrosse star who keeps his thespian endeavors a secret from his father. Holden (Charles Roche) is a pot-smoking space-cadet. Sasha (Michael Bullard), the Ukrainian foreign exchange student, is confused when everyone calls him Jose and speaks to him in Spanish ("Donde esta el sombrero, Jose?").
It's hard to put the characters' over-the-top performances into words, and any further attempt would be pointless -- you just have to be there. But the experience of these characters is unforgettable.
They take the most shape during the "intermission." Keech smartly hides a whole slew of jokes into this fake 10-minute "break" for the audience to grab some fresh air and for the cast to work through some problems with the show.
The brilliance of the show is in Keech's comedic mind and his ability to perfectly recreate every aspect of a bad high school production.
Even the show program is part of the insanity, with cast bios ranging from shout-outs to Ukranian gibberish. The result is a wonderful piece of theater, integrating sight gags, sound gags, print gags and prop gags into one ridiculously funny show.
It's far from high-brow theater, but if you're looking for a night of belly-laughs to fight off the end-of-the-semester blues, "Shakespeare's Greatest Hits" is proof that laughter is always the best medicine.
The final performance is tonight at 8:15 p.m. in Playmakers Theatre.
The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at email@example.com.
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