Much ado about Marcello

Much Ado About Nothing

By William Shakespeare
Directed by Jonathan Hadley
Sonnet Repertory Theatre
Sande Shurin Theatre
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by Charles Battersby

Sonnet Rep's director, Jonathan Hadley, swears he sees a connection between the films of Federico Fellini and Much Ado About Nothing. Such a strong connection, in fact, that Hadley chose to set his production in 1954 Italy. Whatever his reasons for turning Shakespeare's comedy into a Fellini film, it worked.

It's easy to shrug off the anachronisms, since Much Ado...'s themes of infidelity and fear of marriage apply to any time period. Hadley even threw in some funny bits one wouldn't see in 1602, such as when Don Pedro (Todd Faulkner) showed up at a masked ball dressed like Groucho Marx. But, regardless of the Fellini issues, Hadley put together an excellent show, and the superb cast, combined with Hadley's staging, more than made up for any quibbling regarding the time period.

Much Ado's plot revolves around young lovers Claudio (Kasey Mahaffy) and Hero (Katrina Thomas), who are predictably torn apart by the plotting of vengeful no-goodnicks. But the real meat of Much Ado... is the reluctant romance between dedicated bachelor Benedick and the equally unmarryable Beatrice, who are friends of the aforementioned young lovers. Both Benedick (PJ Sosko) and Beatrice (Robyne Parrish) were played superbly. The gorgeous, towering Robyne Parrish was perfectly cast as the barb-tongued Beatrice, and PJ Sosko was simply hysterical. Among the high points of Sosko's hilarity was act II scene 3, when Benedick said, "I will hide me in the ... audience" (rather than Shakespeare's "I will hide me in the arbor"). True to his word, he ran straight at the front row, clambered over them, and hopped right into the lap of some woman in the second row; then he remained "hidden" in various laps for the rest of the scene, delivering his asides to whomever he happened to be straddling at the moment.

Although the rest of the principal cast was solid (with a wonderful musical number by Sean Griffin as Balthasar), some of the supporting roles were shaky, and the zany comic watchmen were too overblown in their slapstick.

Several dance sequences are mentioned in the script, and all were choreographed excellently by Katie De Vries. One elaborate tango brought dancers downstage center to deliver their lines, then back upstage when someone else had a line. Even the curtain call had all the cast dancing together in character for a final bit of fun.

The lighting, by Joe Doran, served its purpose but showed little variation. Almost the entire play used one lighting scheme, with subtle changes added when the far upstage areas were inhabited by the cast. The costumes (David Jordan and Jocelyn James) were chronologically appropriate, though they failed to give a specifically Fellini-esque feel. The set was too sparse to invoke Fellini imagery or the "glamour amongst the ruins" look the director was apparently shooting for. The music, however, was right on target, pirating Fellini soundtracks. While the Fellini feel wasn't as prominent as hoped for, the cumulative design work eventually came together for one scene set in a caf , which positively screamed "Ciao Marcello."

(Also featuring Ben Cherry, Bob Harbaum, Alexander Cazale, Bill Weeden, Carolyn Younger, Amanda Brutton, Laura Johnston, Michael Menger, Joey Monaccelli, and Sen Kent)

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Sets: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2003 Charles Battersby