note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Beverly Creasey
You have but one week left to see two delightful Shakespeare comedies. It turns out that the Actor’s Shakespeare Project LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST (Previously reviewed in Theater Mirror) and MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (at Wellesley Summer Theatre) have quite a lot in common. The dashing philosophy student, Berowne, in LLL will become the confirmed bachelor who meets his match in ADO---and the dimwitted constable in LLL becomes the sublime word-mangling detective, Dogberry, of ADO. Both directors use music of the jazz era to perfectly punctuate the action and hat racks abound in both comedies, so that the actors can assume other roles in the blink of an eye, right before our eyes! Both shows are fearlessly over the top, making them both raucous romps not to be missed.
Director Peter Carey has taken to heart Shakespeare’s pronouncement that “man is a giddy thing” so that his Benedick is one of the silliest, and sweetest, bachelors who ever flattered himself irresistible. Derek Stone Nelson is utterly charming, finding happy meaning where there is none in Beatrice’s tart dismissal. Alicia Kahn, too, proves she’s a deft hand at screwball comedy as Beatrice, and Carey has devised the cleverest “snapshot” opening I’ve ever seen (which captures the ending in a flash). It’s marvelous, too, to watch company actors shift gears and tackle the ethereal. As Shakespeare famously said, (No, not really): “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.”
The small (in Shakespearean terms) cast double and triple roles, so that Dan Bolton can become the slimy villain who burns practically everyone with his nasty plan---and then, he saves the day as the Friar, when the aforementioned plan wreaks wholesale havoc. Charlotte Peed amazes as the old auntie (She ages decades merely by bending her frame and furrowing her brow---and she delivers subtext like gangbusters when Beatrice speaks sadly of her dead mother) ---and she is one of the actors who try on Dogberry’s hilarious mal-utterances. Several of the actors assume the detective role, which the director has imagined as an episode of COLUMBO meets Deputy Dawg meets Abbott and Costello.
Kelly Galvin is nothing short of breathtaking as Beatrice’s lovely cousin. Galvin even delivers a sublime “Hey, Nonny-Nonny” torch song to set a scene. Greg Raposa is dashing as her beau, here a sailor, as the “merry war” between Beatrice and Benedick echoes WWII and the usual soldiers are now Naval officers. Arthur Oliver’s ‘40s costumes and Kit Arnold’s divine swing choreography add immeasurably to the joy, as do Melinda McGrew’s triad of diverse characters. All the characters conspire to make this MUCH ADO about everything—and they cut a mean rug! What fun you’ll have!