OSW doubles up the laughter

Durang Durang," written by Christopher Durang and directed by Barbara Segal, is a hoot &

six sketches presented in two acts that stretch parody like summer taffy and make wonderful use of individual and familial dysfunction. In fact dysfunction, in all its quirky forms, is the fulcrum of the play, while paying irreverent homage to Tennessee Williams, Sam Shepard and John Pielmer.

The play opens with dotty, white-haired Mrs. Sorken (Barbara Rosen) welcoming the audience to the play, and then ruminating about the definition and origin of the word "drama." Think of Mrs. Sorken as a wispy foreshadowing of the raucous, comedic vignettes which will follow.

"For Whom The Southern Belle Tolls," like all of the sketches, is driven by exaggeration: grand gestures, loud speeches rife with imperatives, much rending, even some pulling of hair (or so it seemed). At the outset we are introduced to Amanda (Priscilla Quinby) who lives with her timid, cloistered son, Lawrence (Sam King), both prisoners of their hermetic co-dependence. Amanda, constantly on the verge of a full-blown Southern swoon, is given to dreams of a life free of the entanglements of motherhood, hysterically disabled Lawrence an anchor securely fastened to her ankle.

"Southern Belle" would make even Tennessee Williams smile and if he stayed for both acts he would see Durang leaving no neurosis unturned. Each sketch pushes parody to the edge of the envelope and then happily over the edge. And what's dysfunction without a nun named Agnes (Sarah Foster) having an existential crisis, reminiscent of the play "Agnes of God." In fact, never has dysfunction been so outrageously and blatantly poked fun at, the social spectrum mined democratically. Not only are the raw, trashy no 'counts &

experienced purveyors of crisis and emotional outbursts &

available for caricature (here Sam Shepard would smile), but the upper crust, narcissistic to a fault, take their lumps. All are satellited by children (think of them as collateral damage) who are in need of decades of psychoanalysis or, more simply put, different parents.

"Durang Durang" is a tour de force by a strong ensemble of fine actors playing multiple rolls, all able to transform themselves spot-on as they slip seamlessly from one sketch to the next. Even the stage sets are changed with engaging humor by Miko Hughes and Georgina Holderness.

If you like your Shakespeare by the book, unabridged and complete, well there's a good chance you might bridle at Oregon Stage Works most recent production, "The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr," playing in repertory with "Durang Durang."

Written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer, Jess Winfield, with help from the Bard, and directed by Dennis Klein, "The Compleat Works" is a high energy, fast paced play that blends slapstick comedy with moments of high drama. What might take the Oregon Shakespeare Festival two decades to complete, is accomplished in a frenetic, fun-filled 90 minutes.

Is it over the top? Indeed. Frenetic? Of course. The writers obviously felt the need for speed: they dispatch all 16 of Shakespeare's comedies in one sketch, titled, "The Comedy of Two Well-Measured Gentlemen Lost in the Merry Wives of Venice in a Midsummer's Twelfth Night in Winter."

But the real humor gets cranked up when it's time to run through the tragedies with "run through" describing not only the hyper-pace but the fact that Ty Boice, Hardy Pinnell and Jamison Challeen, playing countless parts, know only two settings: dead stop and full speed ahead. They charge about the stage wielding words and swords, and clearly it helps if the audience has a nodding acquaintance with he who was prolific.

And there are times when the dynamic trio run truer to Larry Moe and Curly than characters from "Troikus and Cressida," or "Henry the 4th, 5th and 6th" or "Richard the 2nd and 3rd" and not to forget "King Lear," first and foremost prototype of rend your breast, pull your hair, and weep uncontrollably tragedy. Well, of course, there's always "Hamlet." In this version of "The Compleat Works," if there's something rotten in Denmark, it's likely because someone left the refrigerator door open on a warm day.

An abiding sense of humor, with an appreciation for Sweet Wllm, will prove helpful to enjoying this comedic dash to stage center, stage left, then stage right, with a chest heaving bow at the end by Boice, Pinnell and Challeen. Dim the lights.

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