BWW Review: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING at The Moscow Pushkin Drama Theatre
Shakespeare comes bottled like champagne in Evgeny Pisarev's bright and fizzy production of Much Ado About Nothing at the Moscow Pushkin Drama Theatre. Or watching it, anyway, has the same celebratory indulgence and slight intoxication of a good vintage and cheery company, and something to toast to. In this case it's to the wedding of Claudio and Hero, and to the budding flirtation between Benedict and Beatrice; it's also to the tunes of Gruppa W/, the show's joyful accompaniment, and to the hectic and humorous moving and staging of Pisarev and choreographer Albert Alberts.
In Messina, the wealthy governor Leonato meets with the noble Don Pedro, recently victorious in battle. Hands are shaken, photos snapped. Later that night, at a costume ball, Superman flirts, quite successfully, with an angel; they are Don Pedro's soldier, Claudio, and Leonato's daughter, Hero. Corks pop, a wedding is quickly planned, and only something or someone truly rotten could get in the way of this happy couple. Of course, there's an evil brother, a plot, and a trick, and everything goes wrong just before it goes right.
Attempts to modernize Shakespeare are often as uncomfortable as a teacher sitting backwards on a chair, but Pisarev's production, off the work of translator Ekaterina Rakitina, picks up Much Ado About Nothing's timeless themes - true love, and the danger and beauty of coincidence - and delivers them faithfully, and stylishly. The music (sung in English) is poppy, kind of top-40, but never out of place. The costumes (courtesy of Viktoria Sevryukova) are contemporary and evocative, suggesting, where needed, a character's power or cleverness or irrelevance. The set (by Zinovy Margolin) spins round like a revolving door, reflecting the mad coincidence of the story and the mad energy of the players.
There is humour, and there is romance. Power and helplessness. Coincidence and careful plotting. A tasteful amount of men without trousers. True love, and all the celebration it brings.