TAMPA — Jobsite Theater has busted out flouncy regalia, fake swords and rubber chickens once again in celebration of their 20th anniversary.
Their current production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare(abridged) [revised] announces with jazz hands that Jobsite still has the timing, wit and versatility to pull off a hectic satire — now with even more polish and finesse.
Written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield of the Reduced Shakespeare Company, Shakespeare(abridged) [revised] references 37 Bard works in 90 minutes, bookended by Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet.
The production's fourth wall-smashing bits include puppetry, a cooking show parody and the combined high jinks of the Three Stooges, Mel Brooks, the Marx Brothers, Looney Tunes and even some College Humor.
Jobsite's Bard insanity started around the turn of the millennium, when they debuted Shakespeare(abridged) in 2001. Called "the franchise" by Jobsite insiders, it proved to be a gamechanger for the company. It was so successful, they produced it five times between 2001 and 2005 to sold-out houses in venues from Tampa to Largo.
No-holds-barred with a menagerie of whirlwind costume changes, pratfalls and bodily noises, Shakespeare(abridged) initiated a successful series of spoofs for Jobsite such as The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged), The Complete History of America (abridged), All the Great Books (abridged) and Grimm's Faery Tales.
The 2.0 version stars David M. Jenkins (Jobsite's producing artistic director), Spencer Meyers, and Shawn Paonessa — all at the top of their game.
In some bits, the guys push the boundaries of political correctness but win the audience over by making themselves the butt of the joke. Their rap of Othello is more Weird Al than Migos — maybe they should try inserting a skirt-skirt.
The guys also make a slew of meta jokes and riff on theater tropes such as not saying "Macbeth" in a theater unless you're performing Macbeth.
They even resort to soliciting audience participation to illustrate the complexity of Ophelia in Hamlet. During our performance, audience member Kristina Barba belted out an epic scream that solidified her future career in horror movies.
Meyers dresses in drag as every Bard female character, vomiting like a co-ed in a spring break video during each portrayal. Paonessa passionately pleads for RuPaul's Drag Race contestants like Honey Davenport and Kahanna Montrese. Jenkins fiddles with his nipples and gets caught with his pants down. Together, they got me silent-laughing so hard that I even cried a little.
The riotous retread also treats audiences to the combined talents of director/costumer Katrina Stevenson, set and light designer Brian Smallheer and composer Jeremy Douglass of Florida Bjorkestra fame. Ryan Bernier contributes some jokes, and Giles Davies offered fight choreography.
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The script provides stage directions for theater companies to insert their own jokes, such as the malaprop "Floridian slip."
Jobsite's version also references ever-present realities like talk of Hamilton, the border wall and avocado toast.
Regulars might get some of the inside humor, such as a Meyers channeling Summer Boehnenkamp's Berdine in Psycho Beach Party as Ophelia. They also include the "everyone goes to Armature Works for pimiento-cheese wine slushies" line that's become a recurring bit.
Because a hearty helping of improv is involved, no two shows are exactly like. New jokes and references are introduced in every performance.
The audience at Sunday's matinee performance laughed heartily throughout with a few dead spots in the middle — the momentum interrupted by an intermission.
Do we even need an intermission in this show? I say no, but I have the bladder of a camel.
Speaking potty humor, one senior audience member enjoyed the show so much that — while in the restroom after the performance -- broke the fourth wall of privacy stalls to announce that Shakespeare(abridged) [revised] was the best and funniest Jobsite show she'd ever seen.
IF YOU GO
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare(abridged) [revised]
Runs through April 7 at the Shimberg Playhouse of the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. $29.50 and up. Students, seniors, military $18 and up. 1010 N W.C. MacInnes Place, Tampa. (813) 229-7827. strazcenter.org.