That's entertainment

Much Ado About Nothing

By William Shakespeare
Directed by Beverly Bullock
Love Creek Productions
Beckmann Theatre/American Theatre of Actors
314 West 54 St., (212) 769-7973
Equity approved showcase (through May 5)
Review by David Mackler

One of the glories of a good production of Much Ado About Nothing is the proof that it's not about nothing, not at all. Beverly Bullock directed Love Creek's production with a sure hand, and she also designed it beautifully. The set was minimal (a wet bar and a bench draped in striped damask, a hedge begging to be hidden behind), the lighting effective but unobtrusive; but the major element was in the glorious costumes and the cast who brought Shakespeare into the roaring twenties.

A dashing and vain Benedick (Jed Dickson), a headstrong Beatrice (Joanie Schumacher), a sweet Hero (Kelly Barrett), a callow Claudio (Jonathan J. Lidz) - but there was more than that, there was clarity, ingenuity, cleverness, and great good humor. And attention to detail small and large - the way Benedick mixed his martinis became a fact of character, and a welcome running joke; the diminutive Dogberry (Philip Galbraith)'s pride in his bearing and how seriously he wore his silly hat; the complete belief in disguises that wouldn't fool a child; the gag/serious delivery of the "Hey Nonny, Nonny" song by Balthasar (Marc Greece); the very funny overemphatic plotting of Leonato (Geoffrey Dawe), Claudio, and Don Pedro (Nicholas Stannard). Moments such as these were not distracting but fell into place as part of the whole - and the plot requirements that cause consternation added depth to Beatrice & Benedick's alternating battles and courtship. It mattered that they stood up for themselves, and up to each other, even with the audience's full knowledge that a happy ending was on its way. So Schumacher's demand to Dickson that he "Kill Claudio!" had real rage but was somehow funny too, and Dickson's response that he will in fact challenge Claudio was undeniably moving.

But wait, there's more: Gregg David Shore's Don John practically twirled a moustache as he set his plot in motion; his gangster-like henchmen Borachio (John Christian Harpster) and Conrad (Barry E. O'Rourke) became heroic when they finally spilled the beans; Margaret (Wende O'Reilly) and Ursula (Kirsten Walsh) flirted their way to happiness of their own; Antonia (Patricia McNamara) was splendid as she provoked Claudio; and there was a brilliant comic bit by Marc Greece as the Sexton - imagine Richard Hayden crossed with Ernie Kovacs.

Well staged, well acted for the comedy, the list of funny bits could go on and on (the closing of the preacher's book at the wedding, Ursula interrupting Beatrice & Benedick's already splendidly awkward love scene). No death, like the end of Macbeth (to borrow a phrase), just warm (and intelligent!) comic entertainment. It made perfect sense that it ended with a Charleston.

Also with the talents of David Boyd, David Heston, and Tony White.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Set: 1
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2002 David Mackler