Much Ado About Nothing
nytheatre.com review by Reagan Wilson
August 2, 2007
Much Ado About Nothing is one of Shakespeare's light-hearted romantic comedies, and as the title suggests, the play really is about nothing—well, if you consider Love to be nothing that is. There's tons of "nothing" being labored over in TheDrillingCompaNY's delightful modernization of this Shakespearean classic.
It's Fleet Week and the Governor's daughter Hero has caught the eye of the handsome Elvis-loving Claudio. This of course is a match well made, as deemed by the lovestruck sailor, his muse, her father, the Prince, and well, everyone else in the play. Meanwhile Hero's cousin Beatrice receives a different present courtesy of Fleet Week—the arrival of the wannabe playboy Benedick, a man she is familiar with and full of loathing for. It has often been thought that the verbal tongue lashing dispensed between Beatrice and Benedick overshadowed the rest of the play—it is this reviewer's opinion that Dana Slamp's Beatrice steals the play, which is no easy feat with such a talented cast of actors. Slamp is reminiscent of a young Bernadette Peters (in voice and looks) and pours a heavy dose of feminine sassiness into the character. The audience immediately takes note, when she sashays in bright yellow pumps onto the stage to square off with Benedick, that this is a woman to be reckoned with. If the volume of laughter that followed her searing remarks were any indication of the audience enjoyment level, then it's safe to say even those audience members who had to leave their chairs to let a car back out of the parking lot were enraptured by her performance.
Outdoor theatre can be challenging, as audiences fight to hear actors over the sounds of sirens and the stifling summer heat. None of this swayed theatre-goers at the performance I attended, and we were there right with the actors listening intently, laughing at the police cadets who moved the scenery, hanging on the words of the villains Don John and Borachio as they plotted to ruin Hero and Claudio's nuptials, guffawing at Beatrice as she tried to hide behind a garbage can while eavesdropping on Hero and Ursula, and clapping to the soulful urban sounds of the lovely Jennifer Alfaro as she sang classics such as "Fever" and "I'm Gonna Love You" to set the celebration scenes.
Kudos to director Kathy Curtiss for creating such a fun revival of a well-loved classic. The production is accessible to those who know nothing of this Shakespearean piece and detailed enough to please those who have seen other versions of the play many times. The hard work the cast and crew put into the production is evident in every line delivered and every whistle blown during the scene changes by our militant police officer (Dogberry, brilliantly performed by James Beneduce) riding a bike in and out of the audience, glaring at audience members who look like they might even be thinking of cracking a smile at his goofy attire—who knew riding a bike could be so funny and so effective? Much Ado about Nothing plays until August 18th, so grab your lawn chair in the parking lot before it's too late. A little tip: sit up front and towards the center. Persons sitting in the back and towards the sides might be asked to move at some point to let cars get out of the parking lot. Which isn't so bad really, as long as the person behind the wheel is a decent driver.