Theater company abridges the Good Book

by Jack Vaitayanonta | 10/8/96 5:00am

The Reduced Shakespeare Company, one of the world's best-known touring comedy troupes, will perform its hilarious repertoire of condensed versions of religious, political and literary classics at a sold-out show tonight.

The group has many targets for its material. In 1995 the Company premiered "The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged)" and also toured with the epic "The Complete History of America (abridged)." Their first full-length work, "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)," is published by Applause Books.

Daniel Singer founded the group in 1981. The Reduced Shakespeare Company is comprised of performer Matthew Croke, writer and performer Reed Martin, writer Austin Tichenor, writer Adam Long, Singer, general manager Jane Martin and production manager Rick Reiser.

According to the group's press release, the Company said the Bible was an obvious choice for their comedic material.

They wrote, "The Bible is the perfect addition to the Reduced Shakespeare Company repertoire, for many reasons. First of all, there's the book itself: it's long, it's boring, people are familiar with it, and -- most importantly -- we can't be sued by the original authors."

"Then there is a all-important marketing question: does the subject matter have plenty of sex and violence? Well, if there's a best-selling book out there with more sex and violence in it, we'd like to know about it," they added.

They joked that they intended to include a long segment on Jonah and the Whale, but the environmental activist group Greenpeace requested they refrain from depicting the whale as a dangerous man-eating creature for fear that doing so would cause antipathy toward these graceful and intelligent animals.

Lisa Gerrard of the Potomac News commented on a particular scene that exemplifies comedic brilliance. One sequence involves the story of David and Goliath.

The actors perform a stone-throwing scene in slow motion against the theme from "Chariots of Fire." The group just says they're trying to put the "fun" back in "fundamentalist."

Roger Meersman of the Montgomery Journal wrote, "The evening is full of fun, constantly humorous, often truly hilarious, and always clever with both subtle and terribly obvious jokes, but at the same time pungent with up-to-the-minute observations of the current political scene."

The group has made appearances at the White House, the Kennedy Center, the Lincoln Center's "Serious Fun Festival," the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Mass., and other civic and university spots across the nation.

Internationally, they have brought their act to Montreal's famed "Just For Laughs Festival," the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Japan, Israel and Great Britain.

With their performance tonight, the group is sure to show they are wittier and more irreverent than ever.

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