Randall Theatre presents 'The Complete History of America' (Abridged)'

Randall Theatre Company serves up comedy in the Black Box Theatre at North Medford High School
Left to right Aaron Carper, Kendra Taylor and Tyler Ward.Photo courtesy of Rodney Rampy

"The Complete History of America (Abridged)" tries to answer those questions you have — or might not have — about the country's history in 90 outrageous, action-packed minutes. As the play's authors succinctly put it, "It's not the length of your history that matters; it's what you've done with it."

Described as intellectual vaudeville, "The Complete History of America (Abridged)" uses silly puns, homemade props and elaborate costumes to provide wacky answers to such questions as "Who really discovered America?" "How revolting were the colonists?" "Why did Abe Lincoln really free the slaves?" and "How many Democrats does it take to screw in a light bulb?"

If you go

What: "The Complete History of America (Abridged)" by Adam Long, Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor

When: Thursday through Sunday, Feb. 14-17, and Wednesday through Sunday, Feb. 20-24

Where: Black Box Theatre at North Medford High School, 1900 N. Keene Way Drive

Tickets: Pay-what-you-want; $12 for reserved seats

Call: 541-622-5795 or see www.randalltheatre.com

Not to mention the play's "still photographs" of the Civil War, a politically correct version of "America the Beautiful" and the comedy team of Lewis and Clark.

Randall Theatre Company's production of "The Complete History of America (Abridged)" opens Thursday, Feb. 14, in its temporary venue, the Black Box Theatre at North Medford High School, 1900 N. Keene Way Drive.

The cast features Randall veterans Tyler Ward, Aaron Carper and Kendra Taylor. Ward and Carper were in last year's "The Complete History of William Shakespeare (Abridged)."

Ward also is the show's director.

"Actually, the way it's working out, Aaron and I are sort of co-directing. Kendra also is our music director, and our stage manager, Ella Nelson-Mahon, makes sure that, with all the wild improvisation going on, we still make sense."

"The Complete History of America (Abridged)" was written by Adam Long, Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor, members of a comedy group called The Reduced Shakespeare Company.

It all started as an improv group led by three University of California at Berkeley students who performed 30-minute skits at Renaissance fairs in the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas in the early '80s. The Reduced Shakespeare Company evolved into a permanent ensemble, writing full-length plays and taking its fast, funny and physical performance style all over the world.

Along with "William Shakespeare (Abridged)," its other works include "Western Civilization: The Complete Musical (Abridged)," staged in 2007 at the Oregon Cabaret Theatre.

The Reduced Shakespeare Company encourages tailoring the show for various productions, Ward says.

"We've added updated material, local references and even inserted personal details about the actors," he says.

"We start in Spain with Amerigo Vespucci, and from there, the show is just chaotic enough to be fun. It's almost like a second-grade pageant. We play a lot of different characters."

The story of Lewis and Clark is done up as a vaudeville sketch, and the first half of the 20th century is presented as a radio play, Ward says.

"There's a ton of music in it," he says. "There's patriotic songs and an interesting arrangement of The Andrews Sisters' 'Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.' It's not quite the song everyone knows lyrically. And the Puritan era is covered with a rap."

Randall is staging the play at NMHS because extensive repairs are needed at its old, warehouse theater on Third Street. The NMHS theater is roughly the same size as Randall's own.

"It's not about our location. It's about our company," says Artistic Director Robin Downward. "We hope audiences will come and see our shows wherever they are."

Curtain is at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Feb. 14-15, at 1 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16, and at 1 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 17. The play resumes at 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, Feb. 20-23, and at 1 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24.

Tickets are pay-what-you-can; reserved seats cost $12.

A dinner-and-show package will be available for the Feb. 14 performance. The package costs $55 and includes dinner for two at Capers in downtown Medford and reserved seats for the night's performance. Call 866-967-8167 or 541-632-3258 for information.

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