Much ado about Much Ado

Much Ado About Nothing

By William Shakespeare
Directed by Russell Treyz
West End Theatre
Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew
263 West 86th Street (362-6870)
Equity Showcase (closes Mar. 8)
Review by Steve Gold

Composed exactly four centuries ago, Much Ado About Nothing does not contain as much soaring poetry as Shakespeare's other comedies. What it does offer, however, is a rich supply of biting wit, which fuels a whimsical double plot involving a pair of couples: Beatrice (Kate Konigisor) and Benedick (Greg Wood); and Hero (Amy Carikhoff) and Claudio (Donovan Patton).

Don Pedro (Tony Freeman), who is Claudio's pal, offers to woo Hero for him. But Don John (Chuck Brown), Pedro's no-good brother, initiates a rumor that Don Pedro really wants to claim Hero for himself. As a result, Claudio renounces his love for Hero. Don Pedro manages to set things straight. But Don John and his henchman Borachio (Rik Walter) concoct another plan: they will discredit Hero by having Borachio woo Margaret (Stacie Renna), disguised as Hero, while Claudio looks on. With the help of the immensely dopy Constable Dogberry (Christopher Patrick Mullen), Borachio ultimately confesses his misdeed, and Claudio gets his Hero (presumably without mustard).

In the meantime, there are Beatrice and Benedick and their private festival of mutual insults, a situation that calls to mind an Elizabethan version of The Honeymooners. Their friends hatch a scheme whereby Claudio and Don Pedro will convince Benedick that Beatrice really loves him; Hero and Margaret will likewise attempt to bamboozle Beatrice into thinking that Benedick can't live without her. This being a comedy, the denouement is unambiguously happy.

Russel Treyz guided his 19-member cast with a sureness of purpose; and his performers burst with energy. Only rarely did he allow the appearance of overly cute gestures, but this was far from fatal. His deft hand was most apparent in the seamless transformation of Ms. Konigisor's Beatrice and Mr. Wood's Benedick from smart-ass antagonists to lovers (of course, both actors had a hand in this, too). Ms. Carkihoff's Hero was lovely, a nice counterpart to the dash of Mr. Donovan's Claudio. Mr. Brown gave Don John the sort of Saturday-matinee villainy that was appropriate to the comic material. Christopher Patrick Mullen was rowdy and funny as Dogberry, who seems intent on singlehandedly wrecking the English tongue. The various smaller roles were likewise ably filled, thus contributing to the overall sense of professionalism on display here.

The production had a distinctly 19th-century flavor regarding both the music (Robert Tate) and costumes (Mimi O'Donnell); Leonato was dressed as if he had recently raided Charles Dickens's closet. While this perspective added no great insight to the proceedings, it was nonetheless unobtrusive. The set, a spacious garden containing a small stone fountain placed stage center, was simple and functional, the work of Tim Golebiewski, Danielle deLuise, Jared J. Roxby, and Stacey Ursta. (Also featuring John Bundrick, Michael Burnet, Marcie Hubert, Jeffrey Swan Jones, Raymond Jordan, Patrick McCarthy, Gary Mink, Donovan Patton, Kevin Reifel, Dick Sabol, Rik Walter, and Donald Warfield.)

Box Score:

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

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Copyright 1999 Steve Gold