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Under the Radar DVD of the Week: 'Slings and Arrows: The Complete Collection'

Dennis King Published: October 25, 2010

“Slings and Arrows: The Complete Collection”

Every lover of live theater should make a pilgrimage to the fictional New Burbage Theatre Festival and experience the deliriously entertaining backstage doings of its dysfunctional Shakespearean troupe. Their antics were detailed with darkly comic brilliance in the Canadian series “Slings and Arrows,” set for release Tuesday in a boxed DVD set.

“Slings and Arrows: The Complete Collection” pulls together all 18 episodes of the three seasons that aired from 2003-2006 on the Sundance Channel, plus several special DVD extras.

The series revolves around the struggling theater festival in the fictional Canadian town of New Burbage, where the legendary actor Geoffrey Tennant (Paul Gross) has returned after an on-stage mental breakdown during a performance of “Hamlet.” He’s back to assume the artistic directorship following the sudden death of his mentor, Oliver Welles (Stephen Ouimette).

But as Geoffrey prepares to mount a new production of “Hamlet,” the very play that drove him mad, he’s shocked to discover that the opinionated Oliver is still around, in ghostly spirit. Over three delicious seasons – detailing the stagings of “Hamlet,” “Macbeth” and “King Lear” – the ghost of Oliver nags and cajoles Geoffrey and debates their dueling creative visions. Meanwhile, Geoffrey must deal with a temperamental cast, an archly pretentious guest director (Don McKellar), a skittish business manager (Mark McKinney) and his own inflammatory romance with the troupe’s neurotic leading lady (Martha Burns).

Packed with insider theatrical gags and grand Shakespearean themes, “Slings and Arrows” is a treat for theater goers and a must-see for any aspiring thespian, playwright, director, designer or theater rat of any ilk.

DVD special features include cast interviews, deleted and extended scenes, bloopers, photo galleries, trailers, production notes, song lyrics and a special “Look Behind the Scenes” featurette.

“Slings and Arrows: The Complete Collection” is not rated and runs 840 minutes on seven discs. It’s being released by Acorn Media.

- Dennis King