So last night, in an effort to run away and join the Shakespeare circus for an evening instead of agonizing over the proper usage of periods in Chicago-style citation (seriously, Tufts, you are BLOWING THE MIND of this MLA-girl… guess I should get used to it since this is the rest of my life… sigh), I took my gay best friend to see Bad Habit Productions’ Much Ado About Nothing …with a twist.
The show’s a straight-up Much Ado performed with only five (count them! Five!) actors.
One of the things that I love about theatre companies who don’t normally do Shakespeare doing Shakespeare is that they tend to bring a sense of fun to it. There was a spirit of play that permeated this show which really kept the energy moving and the audience willing to smile along with it. The actors (for the most part) were multi-talented and at least half of them played several instruments and sang at some point in the production (one of the many script concessions was the addition of contemporary pop music which I did love). One actress in particular, Sierra Kagen, truly blew me away. She played a heart-felt Leonato, a sniveling Conrade, and an outright uproarious Margaret. The only problem I had with her was that when she was onstage I had trouble looking at anyone else because the things she was doing were just so darn engaging.
Evan Sanderson really got to strut his stuff as Dogbery, which is great because his primary role (Claudio) can be a real bore to play. I mean really, who wants to spend an entire show as a wide-eyed, fresh-faced male lead intent on nothing but winning the hand of the pretty girl? Sanderson’s sense of comic timing and his subtle touches (best use of a lisp I’ve heard onstage in a long time) made the eccentric watchman truly light up the space. Bravo, Sanderson. Well done.
Unfortunately, the company’s weakest actress (Sasha Castroverde) played Beatrice and that (to be completely honest) really made me angry. So, I have this thing. Call it a retired actor thing. If I see someone in a role which I know I can perform better (especially if it’s a role that I want to perform), I get very angry and distracted and there’s little I can do to keep myself from leaping out of my chair and delivering the lines for the actor onstage. Someday, this instinct is going to get me into a whole lot of trouble. I recommend the commencement of bail-money fund-raising immediately. Last night, there was little I could do to take myself away from the fact that Castroverde simply did not have the fire in her belly for this role. This was made doubly unfortunate because her Benedick (David Lutheran) was exceedingly talented. Also… Castroverde seriously needs to work on her posture.
One downright brilliant concession made by the company was the fact that, while all the other roles were consistently played by one actor, the part of Hero was shared between all five. Gender-bending and wonderful, every member of the cast took a turn at throwing on an ugly brown wig and a hideous blue dress to play the boring damsel. This concession really took a snoozer of a part and made it into something interesting (and packed a punch when such lines as “your Hero, every man’s Hero!” and “one Hero died… but I do live”, and “Another Hero!” were uttered… though I do wish the director had made a nod at his genius concession with these lines.. they just beg for it!).
The script itself was fairly heavily cut, but anyone who isn’t a super-dork like me won’t really notice. Some cuts were necessary due to the character set to speak the line simply not being onstage because the actor was playing someone else at the time. Others were doubtlessly made to accommodate the many added musical numbers. Either way, the cuts were fairly seamless and there wasn’t anything eliminated that I actually missed.
Perhaps the weak point in the production (and this, unfortunately, is a consistent weak point in Shakespeare productions done by non-Shakespeare companies) was the text coaching. Word to the wise: text coaching can make a good production great and an awful production tolerable. If you ever wind up directing, producing, or working on a production of Shakespeare, make certain that there’s a text coach on hand who knows her stuff (…hire me? Please?). While this production did make me smile and chuckle, it could have done with some more punch in the text department. That would have truly taken it to the next level.
The production only has four shows left (it closes this Sunday), and you should definitely make an effort to go see it. It’s well worth the cost of admission to see the four dynamos and one middler try and pull off the wedding scene (which, by the way, they do surprisingly well). Tickets are available via Bad Habit’s website or, for the thrifty theatre-goer, Goldstar.