BWW Reviews: Fat and Greasy Citizens Brigade's MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING Makes a Magical Night Out
The beauty of William Shakespeare's plays is that you can set and perform them virtually anywhere. A drama can happen in the middle of a war, a comedy can be set in a diner. Or, if it's the Fat and Greasy Citizens Brigade production of MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, running now through June 28th, you can set it in a time period, and perform it affluently outdoors.
The show revolves around two love stories - the first, between young star-crossed lovers Hero (Rachel Watson) and Claudio (Daniel Hubbell), the second, diametrically opposed Beatrice (Emily Baxter) and Benedick (Marshall Bradshaw). Both pairs are staying on the estate of Leonato (Stuart Fischer), Hero's father, who concocts a plan with his distinguished guest Don Pedro (Runjit Chandra) to cause some mischief. When other dastardly plans come into play, mayhem ensues, with some delightfully nutty characters thrown into the fray.
Director Heather Cipu sets the show in the roaring 1920's. Her set uses to black and white tents with a bit of space in between, where a clever wheel lives to illustrate night and day. Costumer Rose Lane chose a number of dazzling dresses for the female characters, and the men looked appropriately dapper. The aesthetics of the show were lovely.
The second interesting setting of the show is its venue, Grace Episcopal Church in Georgetown. The church's courtyard provides a space for the show and picnic-bearing patrons, and has enough space for the actors to be all around their audience when needed. Sitting on the lawn has a magical feel to it, far more intimate and engaging than a drive in movie.
However, outdoor theatre can be tricky, especially in Georgetown. The church is located directly on Wisconsin, a street frequented by tour and commuter buses, large trucks, and even helicopters overhead. A car alarm sounded at one point, making it harder to hear the actors. There were microphones, but if you are prone to distraction, it can be a deterrent.
The cast and its director handled all of this exceedingly well. Shakespeare can be difficult for modern audiences to translate. In his comedies, there has to be a balance of eloquence and just plain silliness, and this production nails it. Aside from one minor flubbed line and character break, the actors commanded their words.
Runjit Chandra is a fun, mischievous Don Pedro, who walks the line between a commanding presence and just being one of the guys. Rachel Watson embodies the sweetness of Hero, making her heartbreak resonate. Emily Baxter plays a wonderfully cynical Beatrice, making sure to let her character's guard down as the show progresses. And Marshall Bradshaw is a fearless Benedick - he is just as adept at monologue as he is with physical comedy.
Despite the problematic venue, the Fat and Greasy Citizens Brigade has a funny, beautiful production in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. Grab a picnic, go down to Grace Episcopal Church, and spend an evening in two settings combined to produce a solid Shakespearean show. Click here for more information, and when the performances will be held.