What it is: the known works of W.S., reconstructed, line by line, into a new tragedy, starring Hamlet, Juliet & Romeo, Iago, Macbeth, The Queen, Three Weird Sisters, Rosencrantz & Guidenstern, and the Ghost of the King.
The story: Hamlet goes to war for Juliet, the daughter of King Lear. Having captured his bride—by unnecessary bloodshed—Prince Hamlet returns home to find that his mother has murdered his father and married Macbeth. Hamlet, wounded and reeling, is sought out by the ghost of his murdered further, and commanded to seek revenge. Iago, opportunistic, further inflames theenraged Prince, persuading him that Juliet is having an affair with Romeo; the Prince goes mad with jealousy.
The issues engendered: War, parody, the question of what is authorship, sex and exploitation, the current Shakespeare fracas, the long history of Shakespeare adaptations, Shakespeare and Hollywood, the Public Domain, the literary canon, the state of contemporary letters in relation to “great” works, the creative future we bequeath our children.
I had just decided to name my new play “A Year Without Shakespeare,” to express my weariness with the recurring unimaginative return again and again to the Bard. Then I came upon John Reed’s NEW/old play, and I feel fired up! What a dramatic re-imagination is herein offered us! —Richard Foreman
The literary trick of the year! —Page 6, New York Post
I can’t quite believe “All The World’s A Grave”: such an original idea. —Ian McKellen
It’s a shrewd, gutsy remix that brings the conscience of Shakespeare to our troubled times. —Spalding Gray
In All The World’s A Grave, Reed is a director, an orchestrator, and an assembler taking what was present to work with, and making one brand new Reed/Shakespeare partnership play. He says it’s a Shakespeare play, but really it’s a Reed. How could it not be? Reed does to Shakespeare what Shakespeare did to himself. However, this is part of his big question, his radical literary populism, asking where is the author now, where lies the genius ? ... It is at once an act of homage and conquest. —Jordan A. Rothacker, The Believer
An inspired bit of bricolage ... This “remix version” of Shakespeare proves fascinating and entertaining. Reed clearly loves the Bard. His pastiche contains many of Shakespeare’s best passages, which are always a delight to reread. More impressive, though, Reed fashions from this familiar material a story containing enough surprises to delight even those well versed in the Bard. —Jack Helbig, Booklist
What's destabilizing—and often wildly comical—is not just the rude mash-up of characters and settings violently plucked from their canonical sources but the way in which the power of Shakespeare's language flickers uneasily, surging and hissing and fizzing out only to revive and fade again as the words play against their new contexts. —Christianity Today, Favorite Books of 2008
We haven’t experienced this much haughtiness since college! —Timeout New York
A proven Thomas Edison ... sophisticated fun. —Allan Jalon, Huffington Post
An absolute feast of Shakespeare remixed, reborn, and given a freshness I didn't expect--and it's somehow seamless in the re-appropriation for this new narrative. —Sustainable Arts Foundation
Reed caramelizes the Bard’s plays into a great and terrifying world ... a dizzying feat of writing and scholarship, and uncannily contemporary in its brew of constant trouble. —Lynne Tillman
This is the Frankenstein's monster of Shakespearean tragedy. It raises the Artistotelian emotions of pity and fear to a new level as the audience agonizes over the uncertainty of which catharsis John Reed's play is heading toward. —William S. Niederkorn
Reed has brought music's remix culture to literature with stunning results. —David Gutowski, largeheartedboy
All the World’s a Grave alerted the world to a timbre of postmodern genius never before seen in American letters. —Rami Shamir, Evergreen Review
This send-up of the bard is both new yet familiar; by using a literary form of montage, Reed plays with our understanding of some of the best known characters from Shakespeare's oeuvre and creates a work that is eerie in its timeliness. —Finn Harvor, Rain Taxi
The language is Shakespeare's, but the drama that unfolds is as fresh as the blood on the stage. —Fictionwise
The resulting story is both familiar and fresh, and the characters are energized and enlightened. Reed’s juxtaposition allows him to give added depth and dimension to characters. .. Shakespeare fans can expect classics, like Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” soliloquy or Lady Macbeth’s “Out, damned spot! Out, I say!” lament. But Shakespeare fans will have particular fun catching all the familiar Shakespeare lines that come in surprising contexts. It’s not Juliet, for instance, who cries “O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou, oh Romeo?” —Scholarsandrogues
With all the cleverness of Touchstone and the mischievousness of Puck, Reed has boldly reimagined the Bard by cutting, pasting, puzzling, and rearranging Shakespeare's own words and characters into an entirely new play. ... Reed has tapped into that muse and produced a re-envisioned Shakespeare that proves to be both provocative, substantial, and entertaining. —hipsterbookclub
A new and invigorating interpretation ... electrifying and comprehensive. —Zoe Rosenthal, BatesStudent