Last Friday night I was finally able to see Essex Theatre Company‘s production of Much Ado About Nothing. This Shakespearian comedy was modernized by director Emily Madan to throw the cast into a reality TV show complete with camera crew. The show kept Shakespeare’s language and all the original puns and heated dialogue were delivered by this cast in a modern setting.
For those unfamiliar with the play this romantic comedy of misunderstandings and trickery tells the story of two sets of lovers at the home of Leonato (Sean Nihill). Claudio (Dana McLaughlin) and Hero (Cami Riviezzo) fall in love at first sight, but Benedict and Beatrice greatly dislike each other until their friends start spreading tales that one is secretly in love with the other, and then that passionate hate turns into another kind of passion.
However, there is discord in the background as the villain John (Steven Hebert) and two servants (in this case camera operators) plot to discredit John’s brother Pedro (Ian Allardice) by making Hero, whose marriage Pedro arranged to Claudio, seem impure. Their deceit is discovered by the humorous Dogberry and his watchmen, but not before much chaos has been created.
Evan Fazziola as Benedict definitely stole the show, and his portrayal of Dogberry was perfectly hilarious. While the whole cast was wonderful, he stood out from the rest. He embodied the role–using body language, props, and tone to convincingly accentuate Benedict’s playful nature and his enjoyment of his arguments with Beatrice in a way that was very easy to understand. Shakespeare’s language can be difficult, but Fazziola seemed to easily convey the meaning of this antiquated language.
Jill Mann’s acerbic Beatrice was the perfect contrast to Benedict. Her choice to share a conniving smile with the audience after she convinces Benedict to challenge Claudio for Hero’s honor emphasized the character’s deviousness.
A few of the cast members played multiple roles, and each did a great job of completely changing character in manner and sometimes accent such that it took a close look to tell that it was a familiar actor.
Paige Grickoski who played Hero’s sister Ursula added a touch of youthfulness to the show with her lighthearted manner.
This ETC performance did a marvelous job capturing the spirit of Shakespeare while adding a modern edge to it. Keeping the original language was the key to that. Having the clothes and music of today and a scene featuring a yoga workout and another with John playing a video game all helped to give the show modernity that did not feel out of place at all.
Having a camera crew on stage and seeing the actors interact with the camera was hilarious, but I do feel perhaps that there should have been one more camera operator because when the two operators (Sarah Cohen as Mags and Matthew Hammons as Borachio) became the villains and were performing their crimes and then were caught that aspect was lost for a bit. Though it was overall a success!
The Show Goes On in the Dark
The performance was filled with chaos, but the theatre itself with not without it’s unexpected hurdles.
The power went out perhaps half an hour into the show. When it wasn’t turned back on quickly a cast member came to stand in the aisle with a flashlight and lit up Claudio for his disdainful soliloquy after hearing about Pedro’s supposed seduction of Hero. As no power seemed to be forthcoming, several helpful audience members held up their phones to light up the actors on stage.
We watched the remainder of the show by flashlight, and the power came on just as the final lines were being said. The whole audience and cast burst into cheers, and the audience rose to give applause to the outstanding cast as they bowed.
I must commend the improvisation and professionalism of the cast and crew for moving on despite power outage (and the heat), and even taking advantage of it upon occasion.
One instance that I recall is when Benedict is admitting before all that he wishes to marry Beatrice, and he says, “…by this light I take thee for pity.” The quip was delivered hilariously by Fazziola with the an infliction and look that gave emphasis to the darkness we were in.
The weather also gave another gift in a well timed crack of thunder that struck just as Claudio, Leonato, and Pedro finished describing Benedict’s foul manner to the eavesdropping man. The whole audience exploded in laughter as they realized that thunder was the perfect over-the-top occurance to accentuate the ‘contemptibleness’ of Benedict.
Although this show has finished, you can see another Essex Theatre production later this summer! Becky Shaw, a comedy of romantic bad manners, will perform on August 16, 17, 22, 23, 24 at 7 pm and August 18 at 2 pm. The show’s focus in on dysfunctional family and personal relationships and has a parental warning for adult language and content.
- Essex Theatre Company Benefit: Broadway Through the Years (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- A Review of Depot Theatre’s Route 66 (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Get Ready for the Depot Theatre Gala Celebration (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Battered by Power-Outing Thunderstorm (rosslynredux.com)