Thursday, February 19, 2009

Much Ado About Nothing

I enjoyed Knock 'Em Dead's production of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. But I was a little bit disappointed by how much of it seemed to borrow from the Kenneth Branagh version. I recognized the music immediately, and after that, even though I haven't seen the movie in a while, I was sure I recognized some of the blocking, particularly in the scenes with the watchmen. I even recognized the delivery of some of the lines. I could swear Matt Hansen's mocking "M'sieur Love" was an exact replica of Branagh's own delivery of the line -- and there were a few others that seemed familiar as well. Branagh's production is a fine production, but the very fact that the instantly recognizable music from his production was used invited comparison in all other aspects of the production -- and when other factors were similar, that invited further comparison. It got to the point that when I did see something that was obviously different from my memory of the movie, it really stood out. It's kind of a shame. You see, there are some extremely talented actors in Knock 'Em Dead's production, but it seems unfair to compare them to the likes of Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson and Denzel Washington. (Though Steve Martin might actually come out quite favorably compared to Keanu Reeves. :) I'm such a hater.) I wish the similarities hadn't been quite so ... obvious.

It was a good production all round, though. Director Kevin Kimsey has assembled a strong ensemble. In the major roles, Becky Kimsey and Matt Hansen were strong as the quick-witted, scornful Beatrice and Benedick. Steve Martin was deliciously evil as the villain Don John. Marc Militello (who I don't think I've seen before, but who I've been assured is a KED regular) was excellent as the lovelorn Claudio, and Maggie Sierra showed great emotion as Hero, Claudio's bride-to-be. Randy Webster had the audience laughing uproariously with one of the funniest running gags Shakespeare ever penned -- "masters, remember that I am an ass; though it be not written down, yet forget not that I am an ass." Those are really the primary roles, but the rest of the 18-member cast did fine, fine work. There were a couple of nitpicky things with the acting -- for instance, Becky Kimsey tends to rush her monologues when they are angry, which definitely adds intensity but sometimes loses a little in making them easy to understand, and Andy Neill (Leonato) has a hard time seeming truly furious with Don Pedro (Jeff Thompson) and Claudio since he seems to have difficulty projecting. I reiterate -- these are nitpicky. Their performances were excellent overall.

There were a few innovative things in the production -- notably, the well-designed and versatile set pieces, which could be rearranged to form low walls, archways, and even sort of a chaise. (Kudos to set builder Tim Schmidt, who also played the friar.) Also, Kevin Kimsey had told me long ago about his plans to have the actors move throughout the audience, notably in the scenes where Beatrice and Benedick eavesdrop on their friends and relatives as they play matchmaker.
It was definitely a nice touch.

1 comment:

vesperstar said...

Excellent review. I agree that it would be difficult to put Branagh's production out of mind, especially if they seemed to be drawing upon it at times. Although, I love that version, it's always good to see an original interpretation.