THE COMPLETE WORKS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (ABRIDGED), at Bailiwick Repertory. If you’ve never seen an actor carry an entire show, check out Ted Bales in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). Bales–whose monstrous comedic talents helped make Party a hit here and around the nation–returns to Chicago with a performance style more nuanced, whimsical, and eclectic than ever. One of three actors charged with bringing all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays to the stage in a single evening, he rises to the occasion by sinking into a petulant funk, unwilling to make more than a cursory effort to portray various kings, queens, lovers, and murderers. When it comes time for Ophelia’s mad scene, he simply dons an ill-fitting white frock, sits cross-legged on a box stage left, and fixes his nails while letting out an uninspired whimper meant to pass for a scream.

Bales’s cheesy, disdainful approach is fitting for this trifling nothing of a play, written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Winfield. Demonstrating only the most superficial understanding of their supposed subject, they lampoon bad theater rather than Shakespeare’s work (the actors simply adopt bad Scottish brogues and kilts to do Macbeth). But while Bales’s colleagues work overtime to try to convince us that the script’s musty, obvious jokes are funny, he good-naturedly ridicules everything and everyone, turning dross into gold. –Justin Hayford