Shakespeare Abridged: Fast and hilarious COD play cut short amid Coronavirus fears


Theatre Too

(left to right) Cameron Merrihew, Austin Berry and Aaron Ortega performing.

Bruno Lopez-Vega, Staff Reporter

College of the Desert’s production of, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), proved to be a wild and sidesplitting ride full of jokes and audience interaction.

However, not all of those that may have wanted to see it got the opportunity.

Following the call to close Southern California college campuses on Thursday, March 12, there was much confusion and panic from COD’s students over the next several days.

Many were afraid over how this would affect their classes and events on campus given the many cancellations over Coronavirus fears had already taken place.

For the cast and crew of Shakespeare, this meant that many weeks of rehearsal and preparation could have been for nothing.

As Austin Berry recounts, this prospect was not a welcome one.

“I was pretty devastated,” Berry said. “We all worked hard to make the show what it was and learning that we might not get to share it was heartbreaking.”

But the team was given some consolation, when they were allowed to perform on March 13 and 14.

Though their Sunday performance and their second weekend were unfortunately cut. As such, many theatergoers that were not notified or were planning on attending a different day found themselves out of luck.

For those that were able to see it, however, they were treated to quite the performance indeed.

For those unfamiliar with the play, it is a comedy in which three actors parody almost all of the plays by William Shakespeare. Many were shortened to only a few seconds, and the audience had to be on their toes if they wanted to catch them all.

The show is meant to be customized by every new performance, and the play included many original jokes from the crew, improv and of course, jokes about Coronavirus (guests were asked to provide contact information in case of outbreaks and were encouraged to wash their hands by the management).

The audience was frequently involved and jokes were flung their way, with the small space of COD’s Theatre Too providing a closer intimacy between the cast and viewers.

At one point the entire audience was called upon to help portray the character of Ophelia from Hamlet.

Aaron Ortega, Cameron Merrihew and Austin Berry played themselves as actors with varying knowledge of Shakespeare. They repeatedly run backstage to change into different costumes as they portray different characters within and between plays.

Just as vital to the production were the dressers Bianca Lopez, Leslie Robles-Cebrero, and Sangrae Cho. With their help, the actors were able to change costumes in seconds, and they were also featured as members of the show.

The play culminated in four performances of Hamlet, each faster than the last and even backward. The crew was given rousing applause for their performance and the actors thanked them for having come out to watch them given the circumstances.

“To be honest, it was an honor just to perform once for an audience; to bring some light to a dark situation,” said Ortega.

Russell Waelder, who sat up front and center, was equally as appreciative of the performance they gave, “It truly displayed the overwhelming talent and passion for the performing arts at our school.”