BWW Review: DIY Theatre Brings Life to MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
Two lovers, scorned, and now playful rivals, are brought together in the pursuit of love and happiness. Two more lovers are brought together and separated by jealousy and anger only to find each other once again in the afterlife. A very flowery description of Much Ado About Nothing, so to give it it's proper description: Bea and Ben love to hate each other until they realize it's because they've been horny for each other all along. Claud lets himself get tricked into believing his girlfriend Hero is unfaithful and lashes out in the most overdramatic way possible. And the Watchman is an Ass. One of Shakespeare's timeless romantic comedies, Much Ado About Nothing is a story about relationships. And what could be more contemporary than a play about youth and their relationships?
Director Caleb Gordon has teamed up with DIY Theatre to tell this story in the classic way with a contemporary perspective. Set up with an audience on both sides, the actors move around and fully interact with their onlookers, giving a space for fun and play. And this show was fun. One would expect making prolonged eye contact with an actor as he delivers a drunken speech would be uncomfortable but the whole experience was so inviting. And the actors were all clearly enjoying taking on these roles.
As with all Shakespearean performances, I looked for an understanding of the text and an ability to portray that understanding - because I am not an expert on the text but I still want to enjoy myself. In general, the line pacing was a little rushed but the character work showed a clear knowledge of what their intentions were.
In this slightly condensed version, at just under two hours, I expected to miss more scenes and character development but Gordon has created a very digestible production for newcomers - and lovers of Much Ado - to enjoy.
In the roles of Beatrice and Benedick were local actors Shelby Reinitz and Joel David Taylor, dressed in their semi-contemporary garb. I thought the on-again-off-again couple had a wonderful playful chemistry and their confessions of love were so genuine. Taylor, in particular had a lovely mix of charming and erratic that suited the noble Benedick well.
Another standout for me was Jonathan Molinski as Don Pedro, the Prince who just wants to have a good time but always has his friend's back - even if he's wrong. Molinski was so funny, I loved watching his facial expressions as drama unfolded. I like when I can glance around at the actors not being featured in the moment and see them fully engaged in the scene.
Claudio and Hero are the hopeless lover we all wish our friends weren't. They fight, they flirt, they break each others' hearts but in the end, all is forgiven. It's quite an emotional undertaking but I believe Spencer Streichert and Anastasia St. Amand were more than up for the task. When the weight of Claudio's words brings Hero to her knees, I felt St. Amand's heartbreak. And Streichert's constant mood changes were well executed. These infuriating lovers maintained their impeccable charm.
And of course, the rest of the cast of crazy characters were populated by local, talented artists from all over the city. Dorin McIntosh played the presumptuous Leonato, Marcus Williams played the villainous Don John, Jennifer MacLean played Margaret - innocent in deeds but feisty in nature, Oliver Bailey played the ever-unimpressed Borachio, and of course the bumbling Dogberry and Verges were played by Michael Rolfe and Kaleigh Richards.
What I loved about this production was the comradery and youthful quality of all the characters. I liked seeing new and established actors take on these roles with a fresh eye and a genuine desire to tell stories.
It made this classic play seem new again.
Much Ado About Nothing will be playing at the Motel Theatre until December 8th 2019. Tickets can be purchased at the door or at https://www.diytheatre.org/much-ado-about-nothing.