Forest Grove's Theatre in the Grove marks unofficial start of 42nd season with works of the Bard, condensed and comedic
by: Courtesy photo Dan Cleveland, Adam Barrett and Zachary Centers (from top to bottom) star in “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” in Forest Grove.

This weekend, Theatre in the Grove is taking on a lofty task: Presenting all 37 of William Shakespeare's works as a single, two-hour production, bundling the tragedies, histories and farces into an all-out comic romp.

As a fundraiser in advance of the historic Main Street theater's 100th anniversary, the company is presenting the three-actor show 'The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged),' a high-energy comic showcase originally written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield of the Reduced Shakespeare Company.

In the Theatre in the Grove production, actors Adam Barrett, Dan Cleveland and Zachary Centers are essentially playing themselves as they rocket through the collective works of the Bard, with each displaying their own personalities as they take on characters ranging from Juliet to Julius Caesar, Lady Macbeth and Prospero.

Some of the best-known works receive more time than others, particularly 'Hamlet,' which takes up the entire second act. Others, like 'Julius Caesar,' are performed in approximately one minute. Still others get a completely comedic twist - 'Titus Andronicus,' with its climax focused on cannibalism, is treated like a cooking show akin to 'Emeril.'

'People who love Shakespeare are going to like this,' said production manager Ken Centers. 'People who hate Shakespeare are absolutely going to love it.'

Directed by Pruella Centers, the play utilizes some 500 props and more costume changes than any other production in TITG history, and actor Zachary Centers - son of Pruella and Ken, who jokingly refer to themselves as 'Team Centers' - said the backstage action is just as hectic and hilarious as the onstage lunacy.

'It's a lot of controlled chaos,' said Zachary Centers, a recent theater grad from Southern Oregon University. 'The show is just so much fun.'

'The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)' is the first of two fundraiser shows that span one weekend only and are designed to raise funds for building maintenance in advance of its centennial celebration.

9/11 tribute in September

The second performance is 'The Guys,' to be performed Sept. 9-11 in recognition of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. The play tells the story of a New York fire captain who seeks the help of a local editor to compose eulogies for the men he lost during the attacks on the World Trade Center.

Dark comedy in October

Theatre in the Grove's 42nd season officially kicks off on Oct. 7 with 'Dearly Departed,' playwrights David Bottrell and Jessie Jones' black comedy about a southern family whose lives are thrown into a tizzy over funeral arrangements for the patriarch, squabbling over everything from coffin style to the cost of the services.

The play, which runs through Oct. 23, marks the directorial debut of Zachary Centers.

'I took directing classes in college, but I've never actually directed a play,' said Zachary Centers. 'I just cast it, and I'm really excited.'

Wonka and Charlotte's Web

The company enters the holiday season with director Peter Stein's musical production of 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,' an adaptation of Roald Dahl's children's classic about a seemingly crazy confectioner who enlists a group of children to tour his magical facility in an effort to find an heir to his empire. 'Willy Wonka' is performed Dec. 2-18.

From Jan. 27-29, TITG veteran Michelle Friend directs another children's adaptation, 'Charlotte's Web,' E.B. White's classic tale of a spider who teaches a precocious pig life lessons on a farm populated by various animals representing human archetypes.

1950s drama

Feb. 24 marks the premiere of writer Tom Dudzick's acclaimed 'Over the Tavern,' a dramatic family comedy set in the 1950s and directed by TITG board member Jeanna van Dyke. 'Over the Tavern' runs through March 11.

'Chicago' takes the stage

In April, the troupe makes a much-anticipated return to Bob Fosse country with 'Chicago.' Following in the footsteps of wife Pruella, who directed a much-loved version of Fosse's 'Cabaret' in 2010, director Ken Centers takes on the lurid and hilarious musical about the trial of two women on death row for murder, who enlist a very, very shifty lawyer to catapult them into infamy (and save their lives). 'Chicago' runs April 13-29.

Hitchcock, live

The season wraps up with 'The 39 Steps,' directed by Dan Harry. The play, based on the classic 1935 comedic thriller by Alfred Hitchcock, is essentially a farce of the thriller genre, with four actors taking on myriad roles in the story of espionage, conspiracy and double-dealing.

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