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Much Ado About Nothing - Seattle Shakespeare - Review
I was introduced to Shakespeare as a junior at Clover Park High School in Lakewood, Washington. That year changed my life. I took classes in speech and acting, became a member of the drama club and signed up for two semesters at Clover Park Vocational School in video production. In drama club we went on a trip to the University of Washington to see a production of King Lear done by the students. The die was cast.
My wife Peg and I have been reviewing plays for years. The change this year is the addition of my cousin, Lavinia Hart. Lavinia and I grew up like brother and sister. Our mothers were identical twins. Lavinia, Lindy to us, got her degree in teaching and acting at Central Washington University, but soon realized that a grade school teacher was not what she wanted to be. She gave up second graders for the stage and became an actor at Empty Space Theatre in Seattle. From Seattle she later moved to Detroit and founded The Attic Theatre which as artistic director she ran for more than twenty years. Eventually, she joined Wayne State University where she taught acting and directing to college students via the Hillberry Theatre. We are thrilled to have her back in the Pacific Northwest and joining us on some of our local theatre excursions.
With COVID on the retreat we have finally come back to writing reviews of Seattle Theatre productions in addition to our reviews from Federal Way to Olympia. Much Ado About Nothing is our first review of Shakespeare with Lavinia. We have viewed plays at the Seattle Center for years and enjoyed both Seattle Shakespeare as well as Book-It in the Seattle Center location.
"Much Ado About Nothing mixes comedy with suspense and gives us two of Shakespeare's wittiest, most lovable pair of lovers, the bantering Beatrice and Benedick (M.L. Roberts and Jonelle Jordan) who like each other but are too proud to admit it. It's a sparkling screwball comedy that wears its heart on its sleeve and will have you cheering when all the couples learn realities about themselves, life and love.
It was great to see Northwest master R. Hamilton Wright on stage as the dapper Leonato (Meme Garcia, Brandon J. Simmons, R. Hamilton Wright). Shakespeare often gives us heroes and fools. Sometimes they are the same person.
Much Ado shares a story of outright foolishness. The big dogs are in town staying with Duke Leonato (R. Wright Hamilton), and fun is expected for a diverse group of revelers and tricksters. The fun and games will soon eclipse croquet and roller skating. False rumors are spread and one of the first targets is Benedick (M.L. Roberts). He overhears libel about Beatrice and is soon spying on all the activities to determine the truth of the vile allegation. The humor is broad and lively as he hides behind a two inch-round tree trunk to hide while listening and then holds two Japanese lanterns as he does an improvisation of a tree. We see slapstick comedy at its best as people hide under beach towels and act as if they are invisible.
The rumors and comments are simple and juvenile, which I always love. Speaking of juvenile, simple minded night warden Dogberry (Sarah Hazlett - far left), rachets up the comedy dial.
Jonelle Jordan as Beatrice is a fellow target of the lies along with Hero (Joellen Sweeney). Meme Garcia as Claudio as Hero's heart throb does a nice job.
I so enjoyed the antics of Nathaniel B. Tenebaum (on the left) in three different roles; he also has a nice rich, well-rounded voice.
Much Ado About Nothing is a comedy and "all's well that ends well" for everyone.
Sometimes people are reluctant to see Shakespeare productions . . . afraid they won't understand the language used or it might be boring (M.L. Roberts catching up on the gossip!). They are missing out on treasured memories. Sixty years after seeing University of Washington students performing Shakespeare, I can still see them and recall their cadences and their use of words mixed with gestures.
Much Ado will leave the same warm memories. Matthew Snucker's set was simple and colorful with a few movable props to hide behind or under. Get your tickets now at Seattle Shakespeare at Seattle Center Theatre; the run ends on May 22 (2022).
Director Allison Narver made great use of the set for attention and access - it was easy to see the action from any seat in the house, especially as the actors ran up and through the audience at times. It wasn't just laughter that erupted, but howls and guffaws completed the wonderful production.
As we drove away from the Seattle Center, I watched a small group of the Much Ado actors, now in jeans and shorts walking together and laughing and smiling at the world. That was the same feeling we all felt as we left the theater on Sunday afternoon, sharing our joy.
For more information, visit Seattle Shakespeare Theatre
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