Walt Shakespeare? William Disney? That is the question, at the Greek Theatre in Morris Township

William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged). By Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor. The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. Directed by Brian B. Crowe. Pictured (left to right): Jonathan Finnegan as Falstaff and Ryan Woods as Mistress Quickly. Photo credit: Jerry Dalia.
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Did Walt Disney rip off William Shakespeare?  Or vice versa?

That is the question.

At least, it is through Aug. 4, 2019, at the outdoor Greek Theatre of the College of Saint Elizabeth in Morris Township.

William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged). Pictured (left to right):
Jonathan Finnegan and Ryan Woods as the Witches. Photo credit: Jerry Dalia.

William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged) by Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor imagines the Bard’s rough drafts. How insipid might they have been?  Did he really intend for them to inspire every Disney movie ever made?

And just how many costumes can a three-man cast (Connor Carew, Jonathan Finnegan, Ryan Woods) wriggle in and out of in 90 minutes without any life-threatening wardrobe malfunctions?

William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (left to right):
Jonathan Finnegan as William Shakespeare and Connor Carew as Puck. Photo credit: Jerry Dalia.

These annual outdoor productions by the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey are a highlight of every summer — although this summer has been a veritable Tempest, tossing t-storms and balls of heat that have canceled a string of performances.

Sunday night’s show obliterated the so-called fourth wall, thanks to puppets, water pistols and a theatrical thunderstorm that vied with the real thing.

William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged). Ryan Woods as
Pompey. Photo credit: Jerry Dalia.

As stage lights flickered on cue, real lightning threatened to steal the show. The deluge came moments after the actors took their bows.

The evening featured a not-so-little mermaid, enough flatulence for a Mel Brooks movie, and comedic pauses for passing aircraft. The amphitheater sits in the flight path of Morristown Airport, where President Trump took off earlier in the day.

Shakespearean characters flew by, too, at a dizzying clip, with wonky juxtapositions and startling revelations.

Who knew Hamlet’s problem was an Edible Complex? And Richard III? Well, the authors had a hunch he wasn’t quite the toadstool Willie made him out to be. In fact, Richard was a pretty fair ukulele player.  (Fake history!)

William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged). From left:
Ryan Woods, Jonathan Finnegan, Connor Carew. Photo credit: Jerry Dalia.

Clearly, director Brian B. Crowe was looking for another production to sink his teeth into after last year’s yummy Titus Andronicus

And he found it. The proof was parked stage left, where the cast spilled out of…you guessed it…a vintage 1594 Titus Van Dronicus.

William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged) runs through Aug. 4, 2019, in the Greek Theatre on the campus of the College of Saint Elizabeth, 2 Convent Road, Morris Township. Tickets: $38; $30 for age 30 and under; under 18, free. Presented by the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, 973-408-5600.

William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged). Pictured: Titus
VAN-dronicus, the actors’ trusty ride. Photo credit: Jerry Dalia.

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