SUISUN CITY — Three men, 37 Shakespeare plays and a heavy dose of improvisation are the backbone of the Second Chance Theatre Alliance’s “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare: Abridged,” which opens Thursday at the Harbor Theatre.
The play was first performed 25 years ago at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in England. It later played at the Criterion Theatre in London, where it ran for nine years.
Now it’s bringing great satisfaction to actor Edward Hightower.
“I’m playing the Scottish king and Hamlet. I thought I was too old to play Hamlet,” he said. ”I have a pot belly. I thought I had passed up the potential of playing it (Hamlet) in my life. Now, finally, in Suisun City, I get to play Hamlet. It was always meant to be.”
His fellow actor, Brian Herndon, plays the female roles. He’s seen the play performed, including one show featuring the three men who wrote it.
Herndon will change costumes about 30 times during the 90-minute show.
“I’ve been dying to do it,” Herndon said of the show. He also noted that it’s a lot of fun to parody Shakespeare.
“When you do Shakespeare for real, there’s a certain reverence and because of that you miss out on the jokes,” actor Dennis O’Brien said. “Here we get Shakespeare and all the jokes out as well.”
“Shakespeare is fun to begin with. Mocking Shakespeare is more fun,” Hightower said.
All actors have been involved with Solano College Theatre. Budget cuts at the college put an end to the theater program and its nonprofit arm, the Solano College Theatre Association. The association is now the Second Chance Theatre Alliance.
The Shakespeare show is a fundraiser, as the alliance, like its predecessor, offers scholarships to performing arts students.
It’s also an opportunity for the community to see crew and cast from Solano College Theatre productions.
“We want to keep the arts alive in Solano County,” said Dyan McBride, who is directing the show. “This has been a tremendous change for everyone.”
Bringing the Shakespeare comedy to life has been a shot of adrenaline for those involved.
“Dennis, Brian and I work well together,” Hightower said. He compares their work, in jest, to “The Three Stooges, the Marx Brothers and Monty Python having kids,” who then did Shakespeare.
McBride couldn’t be happier with the cast.
“They are all extraordinarily gifted verbally and physically,” she said. “They have some long, hard speeches that are all mixed up.” She is married to O’Brien.
Hightower appreciated the fact the show offers opportunities to go off-script.
“The script encourages you to be loose,” McBride said.
A knowledge of Shakespeare is not necessary to enjoy the show, McBride said.
“You will learn about the (Shakespeare) plays as you watch,” she said.
“We’re not highfalutin’ by any stretch of the imagination,” Hightower said. “This show is for everyone. This is a comedy. We do what gets a laugh.”
Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.