Absolutely gorgeous artwork by Jacinda Bridger
The cast was led by veteran actors Juliet Howard-Welch and Josh Katawick as the featured lovers, Beatrice and Benedick. Their talent and charisma kept me engaged with the show and had me laughing my pants off for most of the first half. I seriously snorted a couple of times, which is so embarrassing I had to put it on the internet for everyone to see how funny this show is. There is a palpable tension between the two, even when they are not on stage together. Katawick shows off his Shakespearean acting chops and pulls of some very impressive monologues, but all the while Beatrice's presence is felt hanging over him. When Howard-Welch is on stage without Katawick, Beatrice often gives this kind of faraway look, like Benedick is the one thing on her mind. It is wonderful to see and it is interesting to notice how it brings the love story to life through a character's absence. Their true strength, however, was when they were together. It was a treat to be able to see them both throwing barbs and jokes at one another, and then just a short while later professing their love through some of my favorite lines ever written: "And, I pray thee now, tell me for which of my bad parts didst thou first fall in love with me?" ... "But for which of my good parts did you first suffer love for me?"
|Photo by Lisa Bernheim|
Amongst the other characters, Don Pedro the Prince was a particular joy to watch and was phenomenally played by Tony Copper. His comedic delivery and facial expressions and stage presence were fun and funny parts of this show, but no more so than when cornered by an amorous Balthasar (portrayed exceedingly and hilariously well by Jacinda Bridger).
|Photo by Lisa Bernheim. This was the funniest thing I have ever seen.|
|Photo by Lisa Bernheim. Austin Smith as Don John.|
While I've been praising some of the characters for having so much personality, I have to do the unthinkable and criticize some of the characters for having so much personality. The Watch and Dogberry are meant to be some of the funniest parts in this already funny show. These characters carry the comedy through the second half, when most of the other characters get rather serious and grave. I think these actors tried to do too much, and a lot of the hilarity was lost on me. Dogberry (Kathleen Day) had a great look, like a cross between some kind of game warden and a police officer, but was sadly very quiet. Many of Dogberry's malapropisms and jokes were lost due to loud stage movement by other characters, which was in no short supply from the Watch. The best way to describe the Watch in this show would be to say that they had an excess of personality, and it was hard to focus on the main action with all of their antics going on. Instead of being funny it came off as confusing, and my companions (who had not read or seen Much Ado About Nothing before) tapped me on the shoulder several times with questions about what was going on.
Even considering some plodding tempo in the second half, this was a great show. It is very accessible to those unaccustomed to Shakespearean language, and is about one of the funniest things I've seen in a long while. I can't stress enough how much my companions and I laughed while watching this. I enjoyed this show immensely and I hope everyone catches this gem in its second weekend, June 22-24 at the Xenia Area Community Theater. Call 937-372-0516 for tickets, and don't miss out!