UWS version of ‘Nothing’ deserves much adoTHEATER REVIEW: UWS Theater unveiled a stylish, juiced-up production of William Shakespeare’s comedy “Much Ado About Nothing” on Thursday in the Holden Fine Arts Center.
By: Paul Brissett, for the News Tribune
UWS Theater unveiled a stylish, juiced-up production of William Shakespeare’s comedy “Much Ado About Nothing” on Thursday in the Holden Fine Arts Center.
It probably is most enjoyable if you’re familiar with the story, because director Cathy A. Fank’s approach, based on the style of commedia dell’arte, sacrifices a certain degree of accessibility for humor, but Shakespeare’s witty dialogue is all there — and delivered with laudable clarity and inflection, even if not London-grade cadence.
If you know the plot, though, this production is delightfully refreshing.
“Much Ado” tells how friends of Beatrice (Meghan O’Toole-Gott) and Benedick (Andrew Kirov), who see through the pair’s constant verbal sparring and know they in fact are attracted to one another, plot to bring them together. A secondary plot has a jealous nobleman plotting to derail the impending marriage of Hero (Laura Halvorsen) and Claudio (Mitch Kieffer).
Fank’s cast tells the story with the broadest kind of gestures and posturing, the points they make in speech punctuated with cheers, boos and sound effects from a chorus clad in white, setting them off from the rich colors of Stephany Anderson’s costumes for the principals. All movements are impeccably choreographed and perfectly timed.
Sue Wedan’s set of draped arches and multi-level platforms behind a stone-floored plaza with working fountain represents the home of Leonato (Darrin Stewart), Hero’s father and Beatrice’s uncle.
Fank has done a remarkable job of finding 20 actors capable of credible performance — and of Shakespeare, no less — from the relatively small pool available at UWS. And each and every one of them, choristers included, plays his or her part with relish and intensity.
Kirov’s Benedick is the perfect confirmed bachelor, and he delivers the verse dialogue with an easy naturalness that makes the character likeable and relatable.
O’Toole-Gott plays Beatrice with more choler than is customary, but the choice gives her extra room for the sort of flamboyance the production seems to call for.
Halvorsen’s giggly, extroverted approach makes Hero a much more prominent character than she’s often seen to be.
She is one of several new faces on the UWS stage in this production that bode well for upcoming productions there.
If you go
What: “Much Ado About Nothing”
Where: Manion Theater, Holden Fine Arts Center, UWS
When: 7:30 p.m. today, Saturday and Nov. 16-18 and 1 p.m. Nov. 18
How much: $12 adults, $10 seniors and non-UWS students and $2 UWS students
For information: (715) 349-8380
The review: A refreshing approach to a funny play
Paul Brissett is a Duluth writer and amateur actor who has appeared in numerous community theater productions.