Detroit Mercy Shakespeare production brings the laughs

The Detroit Mercy Theatre Company recently wrapped up its main-stage season with a production of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) [revised] (again).” The play took place at the Marlene Boll Theatre inside the YMCA on Broadway and Grand River in downtown Detroit and ran from April 12-21. 

Directed by Performing Arts department chair and associate professor of theatre Andrew Papa, the unique comedy play involved only three actors attempting to display the grandeur of the Bard’s massive portfolio in under two hours. 

The actors,  Mason Modzelewski, Gavin Rapuzzi, and Jordan Collier, created an atmosphere of hilarity and wit in this 97-minute show.  

“I have enjoyed working on this show,” Modzelewski said. “It’s my last production here at the university so the whole experience has been quite special to me. There’s something that everyone can enjoy in the audience. If you love Shakespeare or can’t stand him, it’s a show that will have anyone laughing.” 

The play featured clever wordplay, tongue-in-cheek political humor and even audience participation. 

“It’s been a blast getting the opportunity to direct this production,” Papa said. “This is the first play I’ve ever directed that I have not only acted in before…I’ve acted in it twice! The script has been a favorite of mine for many years; it’s such fun to bring new life to it with these three, stellar student actors.”  

The first act started with a brief introduction of the actors and the feat they would attempt to accomplish. After that, they dive into “Romeo and Juliet,” followed by the rest of Shakespeare’s tragedies, comedies, histories and problem plays. 

The second act centered on the actors’ rendition of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedy: “Hamlet.” To properly dive into the character of Ophelia, the actor playing her dragged up an audience member to play the part and subsequently the whole audience got involved playing various parts of Ophelia’s subconscious. 

Papa shared that this was one of his favorite plays to direct.  

“It has been refreshing to see what new perspectives and ideas the actors want to integrate, in addition to the overall vision and direction I want to see for the show,” said Papa in a previous interview on the Detroit Mercy website. 

As a play that only features three onstage performers, yet many quick changes and countless props and costume pieces, the three actors were not alone backstage. Two crew members, hidden from the audience, helped the performers with quick costume changes and the delivery of props. One particularly humorous moment was the tossing of an inflatable dummy over the set to an actor onstage. 

After the opening night performance, a reception sponsored by alumnus Thomas Page was held in the lobby of the YMCA, allowing audience members to talk with the cast and crew. 

The play was featured in an article of the Detroit Free Press published on April 11. The article listed it as one of five things to do over the weekend in the Metro Detroit area, providing readers of the newspaper with a theatrical option for their free time. 

Considering DMTC’s announcement of a project to build a state-of-the-art black box theatre on the McNichols campus, this may be one of the last seasons the theatre company puts on at the Boll Family YMCA. 

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