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Capital Fringe: ‘43½’ and ‘Violent Delights,’ via Shakespeare

Presenting companies at the Capital Fringe Festival should probably get together in advance to exchange notes or combine efforts before the exhaustive schedules come out.

That might eliminate the need for both Nu Sass Productions’ “43½: The Greatest Deaths of Shakespeare’s Tragedies” as well as Off the Quill’s “Violent Delights: A Shakespearean Brawl-esque Sideshow.”

Both shows dice up parts of the Bard’s tragedies — the latter to showcase fights, the former to display the inevitable results for pure entertainment value. (A third Cap Fringe production this year, “Tragedy Averted,” brings Shakespearean heroines together for cocktails.)

Each seems a result of the trend since groups like the Reduced Shakespeare Company began using the timeless plays in new contexts, adding velocity and humor while keeping some of the cool speeches.

Such is the case for “43½,” Sun King Davis’s insurrectionist romp through a handful of iconic death scenes put in odd settings. Thus “Hamlet” plays like “CSI” (there are jurisdictional questions), “Macbeth” is a badly dubbed kung fu movie and sock puppets pop up after “Othello.”

Publicity art for the production of “43 and a 1/2: The Greatest Deaths of Shakespeare's Tragedies.” (Courtesy Nu Sass Productions)

Nu Sass has put on a couple of sock puppet productions before, so it continues its expertise with a serpent that hangs around Marc Antony.

Of the cast, the Equity actor Ricardo Frederick Evans looks as though he’d rather just play these things straight (and says as much at one point) while the others — including Jenna Berk, Bess Kaye, Anne Nottage and Danny Rovin — are game for the fun.

By the time they get around to the notorious “Titus Andronicus,” the audience is sufficiently tipped off to the impending bloodletting that those in the first rows cover themselves in protective plastic sheeting. (They had already received “I Survived 43 ½” buttons in exchange for dry-cleaning clemency.)

Amusing as it occasionally was, I couldn’t imagine putting on plastic in an already unbearably stifling third-floor room in a heat wave with a sold-out audience, unless they were doing “Shakespeare in a Sauna,” which may indeed be a show idea for next year.

Catlin is a freelance writer.

431 / 2: The Greatest Deaths of Shakespeare’s Tragedies

by William Shakespeare, Sun King Davis and the Nu Sass company. 80 minutes. At Fringe Fest through Saturday.

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