Jay Padilla-Hayter, Clarity Hagan, & Derrick Ledbetter in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). Photo: Holly Stone.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare

by Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Winfield
Directed by Keith McGill

A review by Jennifer Starr

Entire contents are copyright © 2022 by Jennifer Starr. All rights reserved.

What a tremendous opening production for Highview Arts Center! I cannot think of a more perfect show to introduce to a brand-new suburban playhouse audience. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) by Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Winfield is a fun, fast-paced romp through the Bard of Avon’s canon. Chockablock full of references to his Comedies, Tragedies, soliloquies, and even a nod to the Apocrypha, the play’s the thing that follows the rule of three in comedy, but then adds a fourth when you are not ready for it.

Keith McGill excellently directs an energized trio of actors at break-neck speed through two acts of clever nods and homages to beloved characters and plots that every actor knows (or should) and that every student studied (or should have) in school. The action showcases the physical skills and polished accents of all three dynamic actors. Clarity Hagan, Derrick Ledbetter, and Jay Padilla-Hayter performed as a true ensemble whilst commanding the stage, changing costumes, dying majestically, and chasing Scooby-Doo-like exits and entrances throughout the space. 

Amidst all the chaotic choreographed levity, there are a few lovely poignant, still moments of traditional Shakespearean monologues by both Ledbetter and Hagan. Hagan’s “Piece of Work” from Hamlet is a thing of beauty. This acting triumvirate successfully translated the stuffy iambic pentameter into layman’s terms for the audience in fun-size bites. The play lends itself to merrymaking audience participation which easily enraptured the inaugural crowd. 

The playwrights also leave much room for current cultural references which McGill and company fill with political pokes, present-day prances, and shout-outs to recent history (many of which elicited delightful groans from the audience). The speed of the show provided a hiccup to the timing of the butt of some jokes here and there, and at times the cast rushed a wee bit and became a little shouty, but overall, it is a delightful production and is a thoroughly entertaining night of fun with real sword fighting!

Kudos to the playhouse staging, use of structures, lighting, and sound. These technical elements lend a hand to a seamless show. Nick Dent’s lighting has lovely subtle levels and great effects when needed for emphasis. The house lights are inviting us to participate in a garden rich in culture and art. I appreciated Daniel Smith’s pre-show and intermission music and thought it to be spot-on when captivating and energizing this new audience of all-age theatergoers. The utilitarian theatre space has poles and doors that provide levels of nuance and strategy for the actors. Laurels for an excellent program, reminiscent of the Hurt-Locker handbill, that duped this avid theatergoer. 

The Highview Arts Center space is unembellished, roomy, comfortable, and well-planned and will undoubtedly bring new and eager audiences to this corner of Louisville. There is a nice refreshment bar in the lobby with visual art and a platform suitable for music or small productions. I applaud the board, local council, and community leaders on your endeavors to bring diversity, arts, and entertainment to another vicinity in the metro area. Congratulations on your tremendous opening!

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare

September 9, 10, 16, 17 @ 7:30 PM
September 11 & 18 @ 2:00 PM

Highview Arts Center
7406 Fegenbush Lane
Louisville, KY 40228

Jennifer Starr is a Louisville Director, Actor, Stage Manager, and avid theatre goer with a BA in Theatre Arts with minors in Music and English from Eastern Kentucky University.  She serves on the board of directors of the Mind’s Eye Theatre Company and often assists local community theatre productions with her time and talent.