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Encore

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Roaring through Beck Center's studio theater like the dreariest forest fire ever encountered by Smokey the Bear is The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged). This revue, which, for some reason, has transgressed on stages in England and the States, tries to pump mileage out of a theatrical flat tire -- a frat house revenge on an overdiligent Shakespeare professor.

After wearily attending to a screaming drag Juliet, a Titus Andronicus cooking show, and an audience browbeaten into portraying Ophelia's unconscious, one feels one has embarrassingly sat upon a whoopee cushion. Men with puny legs in tights and high-top tennis shoes toss threadbare double entendres about such matters as "butt love."

Something about all this sounds pathetically familiar. Lost along the way is the essential fact that all successful comedy must stay connected to human foibles (e.g., Jack Benny and avarice).

All three performers have moments when natural talent beams through the smog: David Hansen, with quizzical eyebrows, suggesting an Ivy League Groucho Marx; Nick Koesters, confusing the life stories of Shakespeare and Hitler (yuk! yuk!); and Allen Branstein, goosing the audience like a madcap game-show host. In all fairness, a good half of the audience spent the evening squealing with ungodly mirth, while the rest of us devoutly wished to get ourselves to a nunnery.

The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged), through December 19 at Beck Center for the Arts, 17801 Detroit Avenue, Lakewood. 216-521-2540.

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