Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Much Ado About Nothing"

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note: entire contents copyright 1999 by Beverly Creasey

Much Ado About
Somerville Much Ado

A Review by Beverly Creasey

Here I go out on a limb again. Pound for pound, Beatrice and Benedick are a lot more fun than Kate and Petruchio. And even of "Much Ado About Nothing" isn't your favorite Shakespeare (Zounds! It ought to be!) once you see the Peabody House Theatre Coop's gem of a production, it will be.

Wonderful surprises abound in Adam Zahler's fiercely intelligent take on the comedy. Not only does Every line make sense --- and how often can you say that --- but every single scene is a delight. Zahler's inventive comic touches give new life to the famous battle of the sexes --- and the play's serious side doesn't get short shrift either. Zahler sets the production in the jazz age so we're treated to a red hot swing band to punctuate the action and deliver the "Hey, Nonny Nonnies". Cool cat vocalist/bandleader Ben Arons even croons a Shakespearean ditty a la Louis Armstrong.

The performances are sheer joy to watch. Karen Chamberlain is a spitfire Beatrice, willowy and elegant and, believe it or not --- downright goofy when the scene demands it. John Rahal Sarouf is a chameleon who can play the buffoon one minute and become a heart-throb the next. Their byplay is heaven as the harridan and the heretic.

Jerry Flynn has great fun as the girl's uncle, cutting quite a rug in the masquerade-party scene. Marty Simmons and J. C. DeVore make sensational villains --- although for my money the faithless Claudio is the real villain of the piece, though Zach White manages sufficient remorse to make the transformation scene work.

Amy Rhodes is adorably dense as the constable's dotty sidekick, and Brett Milanowski scores on two counts, both as the double dealing brother of the dashing Duke (Paul Barrett) whose temper tantrum is inspired, and also as the simple minded Dogberry. (If only he had altered his voice when he switched the roles.)

Even the tertiary roles --- like Keith Mascoll's impatient priest --- are performed with aplomb. FUN is the watchword here. The only people having more fun than the cast are the audience. Rachel Padula's whimsical costumes are satirical hits, right down to the silly moustache hanging from Antonio's mask. Scot West's spirited swing dances kick up the show's energy yet another notch, and the house band "The Wheels of Phoebus" will have you yearning to jitterbug. Joanne Kulibaba's simple, evocative court set gives the actors plenty of room to cavort in Mara Fishman's soft, sparkly light. "If music be the food of love" then "Much Ado" is a banquet.

"Much Ado About Nothing" (till 17 April)
277 Broadway, SOMERVILLE
1(617)625-1300 1(617)931-2000

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide