Thursday, September 17, 2009

OSF: Much Ado About Nothing (STOS)

Having seen Branagh's Much Ado so many times, as the Weisenheimer mentions, and having read the play multiple times, I was aware of what Branagh left out. So it was fun to see a production that put back in some of Benedick's struggle to be taken seriously by Beatrice, the prince, Claudio, and--as played by the very funny David Kelly--even himself.

Kelly was a surprising choice to me for Benedick, but he sure had the comedic chops and also portrayed a much wider and subtler range of emotion than we sometimes get in the comedies. We saw the insecurity that lurks behind being a goofball; the sharp eye and wit that doesn't miss much; exasperation and frustration; and reluctance, resolve, and action.

Which makes the ending all the more disappointing. I assume it was a directorial choice to sprint through the last forty or so lines (I like Kate Buckley's work here and in Shrew a few years ago, but was she afraid we would all be Dodgers fans?). This is Benedick's time to shine, and in a few pithy and memorable lines Shakespeare has him take his rightful place as the only man of Padua in a restored order where all is well. These exchanges with Beatrice, Claudio, and the prince should be savored.

Robynn Rodriguez was a fierce and feisty Beatrice, as she should be, and she nails the rapid-fire timing of the banter. She is convincingly frustrated to tears by the clueless and hurtful men around her. And while I now think Peter Macon is a bit of a ham, I agree with the Weisenheimer that he was very funny as Don Pedro. Special shout out for alumnus of Seattle stages Todd Bjurstrom as Borachio.

Setting the play in immediate post-war Sicily wasn't a distraction, which it seems is as much as I can ask of Shakespeare plays set in more modern times. I do choose to speculate that the whole fountain scene was a bit of one-upmanship to Branagh, and Kate, your staging was a splash.

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