SWOYERSVILLE —Sporting a tall peaked hat, a pink robe and, yes, a beard, John Beppler lies quietly in the Capulet tomb, portraying Juliet in her not-really-dead slumber.
“Why art thou yet so fair?” asks Jessica Werbin, who is portraying Romeo.
“Maybe it’s Maybelline,” comes the answer.
Just as Romeo is about to commit suicide next to his supposedly dead, yet still lovely wife, Juliet belches loudly.
“Right in my face,” Werbin said later, shaking her head and laughing earlier this week during a rehearsal break.
Welcome to the Music Box Dinner Playhouse production of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare: Abridged,” during which three actors will present an irreverent, rapid-fire parody of 37 of the Bard’s plays in roughly 90 minutes, starting Oct. 21.
“It’s non-stop, so fast,” said Chris Laundry, 40, of Wilkes-Barre.
“There’s no chance to think,” said Werbin, 51, of West Pittston.
“It’s controlled chaos,” said Beppler, 27, of Larksville. “It’s the kind of show where a wig may be on backwards, but it works.”
The script describes the tragedies as twice as funny as the comedies — and that seems to be true.
Consider “Titus Andronicus,” Shakespeare’s story of bloody revenge, which ends with a cannibal meal. Here it’s a cooking show with Laundry, as Titus, suggesting to the audience that when you and your family have been tortured and maimed “you don’t feel like cooking” — unless you’re going to serve human flesh to your enemies.
“The (original) play had it like Julia Child,” said director Amanda Merrill, of Scranton. “We changed it to Gordon Ramsey, to update it.”
Listen closely and you’ll hear local references, too, as when Beppler’s character has had enough and runs away “to the Forty Fort Airport.”
But for most of the play, all three players are cooperating. At one point they play football with a crown, to illustrate how some of Shakespeare’s plays dealt with the exchange of royal power.
“Twenty-five, 42, Richard III, Henry V, part I, part II, part III, hup, hup,” Werbin calls out in her role as quarterback.
At another point, the trio presents “Othello” as a rap song, describing how he had a wife named Desdemona and “he left her alone-a. He didn’t write a letter and he didn’t telephone-a.”
The second act of the show is devoted to “Hamlet,” and audience members will have a chance to join in the fun, as they help express the confusion going on inside Ophelia’s head.
Ophelia is Hamlet’s girlfriend and Beppler portrays her suicide-by-drowning death by splashing water toward his nose and mouth.
“I play all the women,” he said.
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT
IF YOU GO
What: ‘The Complete Works of William Shakespeare: Abridged’
Where: Music Box Dinner Playhouse, 196 Hughes St., Swoyersville.
When: Oct. 21 through Oct. 30 with performances 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays. Dinner served 90 minutes before show time
Tickets: $35, $30 with dinner; $18, $14 show only