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Much Ado About Nothing

a Play
CATEGORY : COMEDY
by William Shakespeare

COMPANY : Georgia Shakespeare [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Conant Performing Arts Center [WEBSITE]
ID# 4318

SHOWING : June 21, 2012 - August 04, 2012

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Infidelity, trickery and a faked death - this love story has it all!
On the steamy hillsides of Sicily, all is fair in love and war. Passions ignite when the governor of Messina opens his home – and that of his daughter and his niece - to a group of soldiers returning from the front. Romances are born, tricks are played, and even the stubborn rivals Beatrice and Benedick succumb to their desires. The road to love proves a hilly one, filled with ups and downs, and not without a few laughs along the way. Courtney Patterson and Joe Knezevich appear as lovers Beatrice and Benedick opposite Ann Marie Gideon and Eugene H. Russell IV as Hero and Claudio.
*Appropriate for ages 8 and up


CAST & CREW LIST
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REVIEWS

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Letting Loose
by Dedalus
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
5.0
Let me start by plagiarizing myself. A short two months ago, I wrote the following about the Shakespeare Tavern�s �Much Ado� �

�Much Ado About Nothing� is probably my favorite of Shakespeare�s �mature� comedies, and has become more so as I�ve matured myself. I�ve always liked the fine line it walks between potential farce and potential tragedy, the richness of its characters, and, especially, the (im)balance it paints between mature and immature love. I�ve seen dozens of productions, ranging from traditional stagings to those set in 1950�s Cuba or in early 20th century America, and I was part of a not-very-good production set in 1970�s Any-Country. I thought Kenneth Branagh�s 1993 film with its Italian-Leather-and-Lace approach one of the best �Shakes-Screen� adaptations, and I�m chomping at the bit to see Joss Whedon�s more modern take later this year.

All of this is a not-very-subtle way of saying I tend to enjoy any production, even when mis-directed or sloppily acted.

Fortunately, like the Tavern before it, Georgia Shakespeare has mounted a production that more-than clicks on every level, hitting every comedic high note just right, not shying away from the more tragic potentiality of its Don John plottings. It doesn�t hurt that it is overflowing with crackerjack performances that manage to give even my oft-Ado�d eyes moments of surprise.

For those not familiar with this�n, here�s a quick plot recap. The Prince, Don Pedro, and his troops are returning home from suppressing a rebellion by his half-(bastard)-brother Don John. They are invited to spend some needed post-battle R&R at the palatial estate of Leonato. The Prince�s closest friends, Benedick and Claudio, become romantically entangled with Leonato�s niece and daughter, Beatrice and Hero. Meanwhile, the not-quite-reconciled Don John plots to �get back� at his brother by foiling the romances.

Most of the play is concerned with the contrasting Benedick/Beatrice and Claudio/Hero romances. Benedick and Beatrice have a long history of squabbling and �merry-war-making,� and resist their attraction as long as they can. They are, after all, good humored bachelor(ette)s, and shudder at the thought of losing their well-earned independence. Claudio and Hero, on the other hand, are young and in lust-at-first-sight, sharing a tie that is shallow at best, easily foiled at worse.

Throughout, we have a series of plot turns that rely on overheard conversations, deliberately arranged deceptions, and both good-natured and malevolent machinations. Indeed, much ado does ensue over characters �noting� conversations that have been arranged for their eavesdroppings.

In this, more than any other play, the humor is based on character, on what we learn about their natures, on how we soon know them better than they know themselves. And, in more than any other play, the appeal lies in how easily everything can go wrong, in how the �day is saved� not through any plot contrivance, but through the trust and affection the characters ultimately have for each other.

And this, more than anything else, is one of the reasons this production works so well. Here we have a repertory of actors who have worked together often, and who obviously have a lot of off-stage affection for each other. We have a troupe who thoroughly enjoy what they�re doing, and who allow us to thoroughly enjoy watching them do it. They seem to know the text backwards and forwards and they seem to know these characters well. After all, they find fresh �moments of truth� in the convoluted speeches and plotting, and they made me really care about them, familiarity and eccentricity notwithstanding.

Director Richard Garner and his design team have chosen a similar concept to that taken by Kenneth Branagh in his still-enjoyable movie. We�re in Italy, it�s summer-hot, and the characters can�t want to unload all the layered-formalities that rule their life (and dress), and let loose with some unrestrained passion. We�re in Leonato�s courtyard (set by the ever-talented Kat Conley) and there are plenty of levels and nooks and crannies and miscellaneous hiding places, including a full-sized working fountain, which you just know will be fallen into � the better to add a wet-tunic-contest look to the shenanigans (or is it an excuse for Joe Knezevich�s Benedict to strip down to his Elizabethan skivvies?). Some incredibly spot-on lighting effects (Mike Post, designer) drench the play with Mediterranean sun-tones, and even make it seem like other locations, such as an underground crypt approachable only by water.

And the cast, oh the cast! What can I say? It is an almost perfect ensemble, centered by Mr. Knezevich and by Courtney Patterson, who are like fire and ice � mutually destructive, but looking ever so good together. Ann Marie Gideon and Eugene H. Russell IV are lustily doe-eyed as the young lovers Hero and Claudio, and, as the �older generation,� Allen O�Reilly as Leonato and Marianne Fraulo as his brother Antonio (um I mean his sister Antonia � an intriguing gender-swap that seems purposeless, but fits this production like a tailored swimming tunic) are both wonderfully childlike and quick to anger and, well, compelling and credible.

In the comic subplot, Chris Kayser pulls out all the stops as the master constable Dogberry, here looking like nothing less than a wannabe pirate who�d be more at home in a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta than on the high seas. His crew of watch-folk are an enthusiastic brood of bozos and bumblers who stumble onto Don John�s nefarious plot in spite of themselves. Mr. Kayser also gets beaucoup kudos for making Dogberry�s fracturing of the Queen�s English actually understandable and hysterical.

So, �Much Ado About Nothing� is a charming and delightfully entertaining addition to the summer season at Oglethorpe. Thanks to the Tavern�s Evolution series, I�m beginning to think of all these comedies in the context of their order of composition, This one is more �meaty� than the more farcical doings in the (earlier) �Comedy of Errors� or �Midsummer Night�s Dream,� but not quite as obscure or dark as the (later) �As You Like It� or �Winter�s Tale.� It is literally in the �Goldilocks Zone� of the Shakespearean canon, light enough to generate its fair share of laughs and smiles, deep enough to stir an emotional wrench or two, warm enough to make it truly memorable, breezy enough to go down as smoothly as a flagon of chilled wine.

And, in these hotter-than-a-bar-stool days of summer, it is a refreshing splash of doesn�t-get-any-better-than-this for the discerning theater geek. And that�s certainly not too much ado!

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)


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Much Ado About Much Ado
by playgoer
Monday, July 16, 2012
4.5
Georgia Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" shows the director (Richard Garner) and the cast at the top of their games. Scenic designer Kat Conley has provided a festive set, with fountain, in which the action is set. Sydney Roberts' costumes elegantly garb the actors in Sicilian fashions of the Elizabethan era. Only Mike Post's lighting design is off the mark, with a comet-like streak of light on the cyclorama for daytime scenes that occasionally transforms into a moon for nighttime scenes.

The antagonistic love relationship between Beatrice (Courtney Patterson) and Benedick (Joe Knezevich) provides the strongest comedy in the show. Both throw themselves into the roles. (Mr. Knezevich even throws himself into that fountain!) The show fires on all cylinders when the two of them are onstage together.

The comic relief of Dogberry (Chris Kayser) and the members of the watch doesn't show up until the second half, and it doesn't come across as all that comic. Some of Dogberry's lines fracture the English language in humorous ways, but the group doesn't have the chemistry to pull off the physical hijinks. That said, Claire Rigsby makes a valiant effort to inject the needed energy and broadness into the group's scenes.

More humor is found in the by-play of the romantic leads of Hero (Ann Marie Gideon) and Claudio (Eugene H. Russell IV). Both make strong impressions, as does Allen O'Reilly as Hero's father, Leonato. The remainder of the cast fill out the action nicely.

The concurrently playing "Illyria" turns "Twelfth Night" into a musical. "Much Ado About Nothing" has only two musical numbers, but they both sell well with the singing and guitar playing of Stephen Shore. It's just the right amount of tunefulness to complement Shakespeare's musical language without overwhelming it. Director Richard Garner has made sure that all the fun of Shakespeare's play is amply in evidence on the stage of Georgia Shakespeare. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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