BWW Review: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING at Gainesville Theatre Alliance
"Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps."
Gainesville Theatre Alliance brings the Shakespeare classic, Much Ado About Nothing, to life just in the way it should be presented; with elegance, chaos, beauty, hilarity, and most of all, truth.
Enter Benedick and Beatrice, two people who are perfect for each other. The only problem is that everyone sees this but them. Enter Claudio and Hero, your typical pair of innocent, star-crossed lovers. The only thing standing between them and their happily-ever-after is Don John and his plan for revenge on his brother, Don Pedro. Round out the cast with a protective father (or mother as in this production), some sassy maids, a pair of evil sidekicks, a pompous constable, and a gaggle of bumbling watchmen, and you've got yourself a play well fit.
"The Gainesville Theatre Alliance is a collaborative ensemble of students, community members and professionals that recognizes learning and growth as its primary goal. With the combined support of the University of North Georgia, Brenau University, Theatre Wings and the Professional Company, Gainesville Theatre Alliance will provide its artists and audiences quality theatrical experiences that educate, inspire, enrich and unite."
I found the production quality higher than many other college performances. The set is both aesthetically pleasing and functional, the Victorian-era costumes worked well together, and the sound effects added a nice touch. And on the performance side, the Shakespearean language was delivered well, making it easy to understand and entertaining. There was not a dull moment in the show and the actors superbly navigated all the little jokes in the text. In particular, David Martin (Benedick), Caroline Mitchell (Beatrice), Marc Anthony Toro (Claudio), Brianna Joy Robertson (Hero), and Cassandra Epps (Margaret) brought great depth to their roles to create lovable characters that the audience was able to laugh and cry with. The famous scenes where Benedick and Beatrice are separately tricked into believing that the other loves them by overhearing planned conversations are some of the best scenes in the play, and met my high expectations for them.
In addition to the students from University of North Georgia and Brenau University, Elisa Carlson and Brian Kurlander joined the cast as Leonata and Don Pedro. They fit very naturally into the cast and it was great to see the students rise to their level of professionalism. The choice to turn Leonato into Leonata worked perfectly. Carlson did not simply take Leonato's traditional characteristics and play them as a female, but rather she took all the loving motherly nature and translated it into the character of Leonata.
If I were to offer one critique, it would be on the staging. The Ed Cabell Theatre has a thrust stage, with the audience on three sides. Most of the time the actors play to all sides and keep moving around so that every audience member has a chance to see each character at some point in the scene, but there are a few scenes that take place further downstage or are more stationary so that I, sitting on house right, could only see a couple character's faces for the whole scene. This did not break the show for me, and it was still highly enjoyable, but I wish I could have enjoyed it a little more.
Much Ado About Nothing speaks to the heart. It is a show about fighting for love, appreciating those around you, the importance of family, and the bond of friendship. These characters don't feel like they live in some far off land, for the truths behind the lessons they learn are still applicable today. Much Ado About Nothing is a real, honest play that demands the heart of the actor, something those at Gainesville Theatre Alliance give freely.
Much Ado About Nothing runs at the Ed Cabell Theatre through February 25th. For more information, or to buy tickets, visit http://blog.ung.edu/gta/.