The Bard has been king of film for decades, but it’s about time he had his very own TV series. Shakespeare has a shot at just this, as does the talented cast of Complete Works.
This witty comedy revolves around the likeable Hal Evans (Joe Sofranko), a Shakespeare geek, who competes against five sharp-tongued collegiate actors in the finals at the American Shakespeare Competition.
Sofranko, who co-wrote and co-directed the five-episode series, gives a winning-layered performance as Hal. In the first episode, we meet this affable sap, who flashes a naïve smile that says, “I’m just happy to be here,” to five callous competitors. Poor Hall unwittingly steps into the competitive quagmire time and time again, most notably in scenes with his acting coach James, a deliciously evil adversary, played by the comedic Kevin Quinn.
Complete Works’ supporting cast is equally stellar. We have the prickly Pauline (Lili Fuller), who barely tolerates the love smitten Hal; the soft-spoken Leo (Alex Skinner) from Britain, who attempts to guide the clueless Hal; the sexy and witless Oliver (Chase Williamson), who has a crush on the subtly calculating Regan (Lizzie Fabie), and the effeminate Ian (Ben Sidell), who only has eyes for Oliver.
Particularly, Hal, Leo, and Regan deliver their Shakespearean dialogue with brilliant finesse, and Fuller frightens all when she swears, in Lady Macbeth’s famous speech, to pluck her “nipple” from her babe’s “boneless gums, and dash’d the brains out, had I so sworn…”
Overall, the show’s strong cast has the potential to attract as many non-Shakespeareans as Shakespeareans. Yes, the production is filled with Shakespeare’s delicious dialogue and bits of historical details about his characters and plays, but it does so without being overly burdensome to non-fans. In fact, the series strikes such a nice balance that it might convert some haters without turning off Shakespeare lovers.
The only real problem this five-episode series has is that it ends too soon. This charming cast and storyline deserve an ongoing series. Hulu has the makings of a hit if it puts its marketing and advertising dollars behind it (after all, a show can’t find an audience if viewers don’t know it exists). For now, we’ll have to wait and see how the Internet TV network handles this gem. I hope to see much more of Hal and his fellow Shakespeareans.
Deborah Voorhees writes reviews, features, and a weekly multimedia column titled Bard in Multimedia that publishes each Monday and covers books, films, recordings, web content, videos, video games, radio, television, and all emerging mediums. Send all press releases and comments to the Associate Editor for Multimedia, Deborah Voorhees at email@example.com.