THE COMPLETE WORKS OF SHAKESPEARE (ABRIDGED) | What Hamlet calls "this most excellent canopy, the air," overhangs Orfeo Group's zanily laid-back rendition of the Reduced Shakespeare Company's The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), which is being performed outdoors on the Publick Theatre stage in Christian Herter Park (through August 9). Neither are the plays of Shakespeare the only things squeezed by Orfeo, which reduces the title of this parodic staple to The Complete WOWS(A) and shaves the price of admission on Thursdays to nothing. The popular RSC spoof has been purveying its low-comedy take on the lofty art of the Bard since 1987, but Orfeo throws in a party atmosphere, beer for sale, and an urgency of its own. As Risher Reddick, nimble and nauseated as the show's too-too-solid heroines, warns, the troupe rejects "dry, boring, vomit-less Shakespeare." Joining the retching Risher in punning, mugging, swashbuckling, and pratfalling under the direction of Steven Barkhimer are an at-ease Daniel Berger-Jones and a more pompously antic Gabriel Kuttner. Skilled actors on a hambone holiday, they'll have you laughing till the light fades. | Publick Theatre, Christian Herter Park, 1175A Soldiers Field Road, Brighton | 617.747.4460 | Through August 22 | Curtain 6:45 pm Thurs-Mon + 2 pm Sat [August 8] | $15; Thurs free to all; Fri free with student ID

DEATH OF A SALESMAN | Attention must be paid once again as Independent Theatre Company presents Arthur Miller's Tony- and Pulitzer-winning story of Willy Loman, who as his sales career starts to tank wonders whether he can't provide for his family by committing suicide so they can collect his insurance. (The insurance company, of course, has other ideas.) Miller wrote his play back in 1949, but 50 years later, it hardly seems out of date. Boston Center for the Arts Plaza Black Box Theatre, 539 Tremont St, Boston | 617.933.8600 | Through August 8 | Curtain 8 pm Thurs-Fri | 3 + 8 pm Sat | $20-$25

THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE | Shakespeare & Company takes up Donald Freed's 2005 two-hander, whose setting is Panama City in 1989. The Americans are invading, and General Manuel Noriega has taken refuge in the papal nunciature, where his only companion is Archbishop José Laboa. The general is looking for sanctuary abroad from the archbishop; when that's not forthcoming, he starts to explain why the mess he's in is not his fault but the CIA's. Dennis Krausnick and Ignatius Anthony make up the cast; Dee Evans and Clare Reedy direct. | Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre, 70 Kemble St, Lenox | 413.637.3353 | Through August 16 | Curtain 8:30 pm August 6, 9, 11, 13, 15 | 3 pm August 16 | $16-$38; $11-$29 students, seniors

HAMLET | Shakespeare & Company reprises its 2006 production, a family affair, with Jason Asprey as Hamlet, S&C artistic director Tina Packer as Gertrude, her son, Jason Asprey, as Hamlet, and her husband, Dennis Krausnick, as — no, not Claudius, that would be a bit much — Polonius. Nigel Gore is back as Claudius, and Eleanor Holdridge again directs this dark, muscular production, in which the jarring metallic sounds that signify Hamlet's synaptic twitching also suggest the clanging shut of doors in the prison that is Denmark. This is a clear, compelling, if hardly transcendent reading, with a few twists that work — like Hamlet's passing out scripts of The Mousetrap to Gertrude and Claudius and having them play it like an amateur theatrical. With Elizabeth Raetz as Ophelia. | Shakespeare & Company, Founders Theatre, 70 Kemble St, Lenox | 413.637.3353 | Through August 28 | Curtain times vary | $16-$60

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Related: Play by play: August 14, 2009, Play by play: July 31, 2009, More Bard, another park, More more >
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