After more than a year dealing with Covid shutdowns, some much needed laughter may be the best medicine after all.
Thirteen months after its last mainstage production, Moline’s Spotlight Theatre is featuring the madcap comedy, “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) and[revised].” Performances – featuring Spotlight co- owner Brent Tubbs with Jeremy Mahr and Amelia Fischer – opened last weekend and will continue this weekend, with seating limited to 50 audience members in the 500-plus seat theater.
The Spotlight, in the former Scottish Rite Cathedral at 1800 7th Avenue, debuted with the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s “All the Great Books (abridged)” in June 2018, which included Tubbs and Mahr. Tubbs is a former RSC member and improv comedy veteran who toured around the world with the company from 2005 to 2011.
Despite the “Complete Works” of Shakespeare being the original RSC show and perhaps its most popular, Tubbs has never been in it before. He says all the Bard’s works are referenced in 90 minutes -- hilarity will ensue, props and costumes will fly, and sides will be split from laughter.
And you don’t have to know anything about Shakespeare to have a great time – as he says it’s kind of “Shakespeare for Dummies, told by dummies.”
“There's highbrow humor, there's lowbrow humor, and everything in between. You certainly do not need to know anything about Shakespeare in order to enjoy the show. There's jokes in there for everybody, and really, the jokes are there for everybody. I mean, it's not like we're telling Shakespearean jokes and for the most part, people have a base understanding of what Shakespeare is - at the very least, understand even more. But you really do not need to know Shakespeare in and out to understand the show."
"And that's kind of what these shows kinda do is that the premise is -- we are here to teach you about it, to teach you about Shakespeare and to teach you all those plays and do all that stuff. And so it's not centered around people that supposedly already know the stuff. It's meant to be informative, but it's just being told by three imbeciles that really don’t know what they’re talking about.”
Tubbs says each of the silly, slapstick RSC “abridged” shows is done with a cast of three – with the same archetypal characters.
“There's always kind of the intellectual, the professor; the enforcer or the kind of brutish guy, and there's the idiot savant or the the man-child as we call them. And it's always the same kind of character type in all of their shows.”
In this production, Mahr is the enforcer – the guy who says they have to keep it moving to its end; Fischer is the intellectual, and Tubbs is the idiot savant. RSC usually doesn’t have any female cast members, so it’s unique to feature Fischer, who – like the guys -- has improv experience.
“For this particular show, I think it works well to have Amelia as kind of the more intellectual, because then it's like Jeremy and I are the two kind of dumb dudes that are stumbling through this, and she kinda brings us back to reality a lot. It really kind of works well on this show, but she's also just a phenomenal talent and super funny and I we knew she had the improv background as well, which always helps with these shows. It was just kind of a good fit.”
Both Tubbs and Mahr performed improv with ComedySportz Quad Cities, and they co-starred in the RSC “The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged)” at the QC Theatre Workshop in 2016. Mahr has experience performing Shakespeare with Prenzie Players, and Fischer (who’s done ComedySportz) was part of the new Stolen Set improv company at the Spotlight, with Tubbs and Bob Kelly, which debuted briefly in 2019.
She also co-starred in the last mainstage production at Spotlight the month before Covid closures, “The Wedding Singer.”
For the Shakespeare show, audiences must wear face masks and due to Covid distancing requirements, Tubbs blocked the show so the actors are kept apart, and each has part of the stage where they always enter and exit. They’re excited to be back after such a long time with a full production.
“It's been incredible. Even early on in the rehearsal process, it felt weird at first -- like, oh gosh, this feels weird. Like, are we okay? After we kind of got over that, we've had masks on the whole time, so we knew we were safe. And it's been incredible. Just getting back into the theater and being around creative people again and being able to create and bounce ideas off of each other.”
Tickets are $20 and available at www.thespotlighttheatreqc.com.