Sunday, September 26, 2010

Much Ado About Nothing from Wooden O

Beatrice and Benedick are two of my favorite characters in all of Shakespeare, and definitely my favorite couple, and it was an absolute treat to see real-life married couple Amy Thone and Hans Altwies in the roles this summer at Wooden O's outdoor production smartly directed by Sheila Daniels. We loved it so much we saw it twice.

Photo: John Ulman
Daniels set the play down in the bayou, with everyone in gauzy white cotton and linen, and traditional foot-stomping music and dancing and singing ably performed by the live musicians and cast. It was hard not to join in!

Daniels took a fresh romp through the play's high-jinks and physical comedy. There were some delightful images as Benedick got tangled up in a line of laundry. And Beatrice became part of the furniture as she "hid," a compromising position which Hero took advantage of to deliver a sound spanking. Benedick wasn't obvious at all hiding beneath an upturned boat.

My only quibble is the decision to eliminate the uncle and replace him with Beatrice in the confrontation scene with Don Pedro and Claudio. While Beatrice is certainly spunky enough to take them on, it doesn't fit with what comes before and after, and I found it jarring.

Otherwise, it was a fresh, hilarious, delightful approach to this timeless comedy, with a uniformly strong cast, anchored by Altwies and Thone. I wonder if the setting was chosen for Altwies; he has a languid, fluid, graceful physicality that made me almost feel the heat and humidity. Thone wrung the most out of every pregnant line and significant look. And their chemistry crackled.

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