New York is a city of countless theatre companies, many of which seem to be besotted by the Bard. It's a rare night when a cursory glance at any theatre-listing service doesn't reveal competing productions of Shakespeare's works, from first-class Broadway revivals to bargain-basement productions of dubious merit.
American Globe Theatre is one of those companies whose love of Shakespeare's works fuels their very raison d'etre, and if their current production of Much Ado About Nothing is any indication, they deserve every bit of the success they are enjoying.
John Basil's freewheeling, gloriously energetic production was one of those sublime evenings where all of the theatre gods were smiling, and even Mr. Bill himself was apparently throwing a party. Basil's take on this lighthearted battle of wit and wills between the sexes was one of such heavenly bliss, so smartly directed, so engagingly performed, and so beautifully designed, it rivaled anything seen in either New York or London for wit, clarity, and overall good will. The performances couldn't be bettered, from Scott Eck's brilliantly strutting Benedick, Elizabeth Keefe's proud and peremptory Beatrice, and Kathryn Savannah (an expert comedienne)'s delightful Hero, to Stanley Harrison's loopy but dignified Dogberry and Mike Finesilver's gleefully demented Verges.
Set in the Sicily of 1800, the production's visual and physical aspects were luxuriously lush: Terry Leong's colorful, gorgeous Empire-style gowns and military uniforms stood out beautifully against Vincent A. Masterpaul's black, M.C. Escher-like multilevel setting, and the entire production was crisply and brightly lit by the ubiquitous Douglas Filomena.
With so many concurrent attempts by so many companies, Shakespeare productions in New York are a dime a dozen, but productions like this one are rare events indeed - Basil and crew achieved what has lately become to seem the impossible dream: to make the work of William Shakespeare vital, fresh, and accessible. This production should be required viewing for any other company contemplating a foray into this repertory - a dazzling evening of seemingly effortless joy from beginning to end. Bravo, Brava, Bravissimi!
(Also featuring Dorothy Abrahams, Trent Dawson, Craig Anthony Grant, Sisi Aisha Johnson, Damon Kinard, Basil Rodericks, Ross Stoner, Robert Lee Taylor, Warren Watson, Matthew A. Wilson, David Winton, and Douglas Wunsch.)
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Copyright 2001 Doug DeVita