Instead of producing what everyone would call a holiday show, the Delaware Theatre Company - which has tackled William Shakespeare (and won) in the past - decided to use the season to skewer the Bard altogether. Their production of the super-silly

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)

barely mentions the holiday, but it's as festive as can be.

In fact, you'd have to be a real crank not to get a kick out of the play, now in its 20th anniversary of celebrating the English language's great playwright by mangling him.

It's best accompanied by extreme stage antics, the more the better. In

Complete Works

, "trippingly on the tongue" is not as important a concept as tripping. The updated version on stage in Wilmington is, at least in the first act, nothing like I remember seeing - it's wilder, with more shtick, more raucous whimsy: in general, more more.

The conceit: In about two hours, run through everything, or at least every instantly recognizable thing, Shakespeare ever wrote. A smooth-jazzy

Romeo and Juliet

is cut to 10 minutes;

Titus Andronicus

is played as a Food Network pilot,

Othello

is a rap song, the comedies and romances turn into a single piece, and the histories, a football game. ("He's fading back to pass, looking for an heir downfield!") As for the tragedies, I think

King Lear

is two lines - one of them, cut off.

You don't have to brush up your Shakespeare, but if you do, you'll appreciate the show in a different way.

Complete Works

is normally a revel, and director Steve Tague has gone wild; if this is the theater company's winter's tale, he must have thought, then make it a tempest.

President Bush, Crystal Gayle, Britney Spears, Donovan McNabb - they all come somehow into play in this version. The entire audience gets roles in

Hamlet

-

Complete Works

is not so much an audience participation show as a general conspiracy among everyone inside the theater - and

Hamlet

becomes the show's crowning glory. First the actors gnarl it, then they up the stakes. By the end, this

Hamlet

's recognizable only because you've been in on the maiming from the beginning.

The word

splendid

was not in use until Shakespeare was dead 18 years, but it's the best way to describe Jason O'Connell, Jeffrey C. Hawkins and Joseph Midyett, the actors who bring this off with great flair.

They could not be more different from one another. The bearded O'Connell is a teddybear with a touch of evil. The rail-thin, red-headed Hawkins has an elegant air, easily pierced. Midyett is the no-holds-barred clown, endearingly untamed. Which also describes the show.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)

Written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield, directed by Steve Tague, set by Stefanie Hansen, costumes by Andrea Barrier. Presented by Delaware Theatre Company.

The cast:

Jason O'Connell, Jeffrey C. Hawkins, Joseph Midyett.

Playing at

Delaware Theatre Company, 200 Water St., Wilmington, through Dec. 23. Tickets: $31 to $49. Information: 302-594-1100 or

» READ MORE: www.delawaretheatre.org

.

Contact staff writer Howard Shapiro at 215-854-5727 or hshapiro@phillynews.com.