Hysterical America

History for dummies, from dummies

The Complete History of America, Abridged

Empty Space Theater till July 3rd

THE REDUCED SHAKESPEARE COMPANY are at it again. Having condensed the 37 plays of the Bard into a little over 90 minutes, theyve shrunk the contents of our historical record into fewer than two hours via The Complete History of America, Abridged. And while the result, directed by Eddie Levi Lee, isnt as polished or funny as their earlier effort, its still a pleasant enough frolic atop the solemn heads of academia.

Essentially a collection of variable comic sketches, the evening, written by its original performers Adam Long, Reed Martin, and Austin Tichenor, already suffers from one of the problems endemic to all histories: It feels a little dated. The shows second half features an only sporadically funny conspiracy theory that follows the Shot Heard Round the World as it takes out not only a group of colonists but Abraham Lincoln, both Kennedies, and Martin Luther King.

But while the jokes occasionally fall flat, the shows got two great strengths. The first is its cheerful willingness to insult every ethnic and cultural stereotype it comes across, from Mama-Mia-ing Italians to head-dress wearing Indians, because the three white guys who are presenting it are such obvious but affable morons. ("I may be a moron, but Im a moron with a dream!" shouts performer Burton Curtis, reminding us that a moron with a dream "is the most dangerous kind of moron!")

The second valuable asset is Burton Curtis. This isnt to take away from the abilities of his co-stars Jonathan Hochberg and Jeffrey Treadwell, who are fleet, funny, and entirely willing to make asses of themselvesan invaluable quality in a show like this. But Curtis brings a sweet, uncomprehending enthusiasm to his role thats both hilarious and yet strangely poignant. With its unexpected humanity, his performance almost capsizes this comic fluff of a foray, but its always kept in check by the silliness of the material. Its a masterful balancing act, one that gives unexpected depth to an evening chiefly notable for its gleeful stupidity.

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