By Debra Miller
With an exciting mix of swords and daggers, poisoned drinks and poetic language, “bloody bits” and zany vignettes, seven actors explicate the mortal coil in playwright Derek Davidson’s pastiche of the most famous battle scenes, both tragic and comic (where “nobody dies!”), from Shakespeare’s iconic works. Directed by Kevin McGuire, the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre’s production of KILL WILL—the title is a take-off on Quentin Tarantino’s uber-violent 2003 film Kill Bill—is fast, furious, and funny, with a spirited ensemble (Zach Aguilar, Alexander Eltzroth, Deaon Griffin-Pressley, Julia Jensen Ray, Aaron Kirkpatrick, William LeDent, and Steve Wei) that is equally adept at drama and parody, and at executing thrilling swordfights with fluidity and precision (fight direction by the sensational Michael Cosenza).
The show successfully intersperses eloquent passages from The Bard’s original texts with witty current references (listing “Rocky VI” in the canon of his histories) and clever sight gags (a rag mop = a pet dog). Without missing a beat, the engaging cast switches from in-character enactments to playing themselves in direct-address commentaries that set up the plot points for the audience and set the moods for the rapid-fire sequences. Among the most amusing segments is the Mechanicals’ performance of “Pyramus and ‘Frisbee’” (“bad community theater in Shakespeare’s time”) from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But even when played for laughs, this action-packed 70-minute mash-up of “killer scenes” from Shakespeare proves that nothing and no one could ever KILL WILL; he will always endure as the world’s greatest and most influential playwright. [2111 Sansom Street] September 15-19, 2015; fringearts.com/kill-will.