Point of You's artistic director Jeff Love says, "The closest thing Shakespeare had in his day to the 'Office Environment' was the royal court." This is why he chose to set Point of You's production of Much Ado About Nothing in an office in the present day. Love also directed and designed the set, lights, and sound, as well as performed in the show. His influence was felt in every step of the production, much to the detriment of the show.
Although the script of Much Ado... has survived for 400 years, it apparently wasn't good enough for Jeff Love. In addition to rampant ad libs during entrances and exits, plus many asides in modern-day language, Love also took it upon himself to WRITE ADDITIONAL SCENES! A prolog in modern English explains to the audience that the play is set in an office, and a post-curtain-call epilogue provides an unwarranted extra happy ending (for those members of the audience who simply couldn't go home until Don Pedro got laid). Examples of such literary tumors could be found growing on virtually every scene.
The set (also by Love) failed to represent a modern office ... or any other specific location, for that matter. A water cooler was discreetly stuffed into one corner with a small potted plant in another corner, but the stage was dominated by two large, green, amorphous polygons that were intended to represent office cubicles (Even though they were only vaguely cube-shaped). There was no office furniture or office equipment. No chairs even! This reduced the blocking to large clumps of actors standing around for two-and-a-half hours.
The sound design (also by Love, with Stacey Connor) was not actively destructive to the play. Though was it absolutely necessary for Conrad to burst into a rendition of "Hey Big Spender"? Love's lighting design (with Keri Thibodeau) was monotonous, though adequate. The costumes, by Karron Karr, mostly conveyed the time and setting, though many of the cast did not wear office attire (casual Friday in Messina perhaps).
No doubt there were some fine actors trapped beneath this interpretation of the play, but performances were hampered by miscasting. A grievous example was the reverse-gender casting of Conrad (Danielle Montezinos). Although Montezinos was fully committed to the role, the diminutive soprano was given an impossible task of convincing an audience that she was a man. Casting a woman as an effeminate male fop convoluted whatever comments were being made on the character's sexuality. In Love's defense, another example of his reverse-gender casting worked fine, with Valentina Cardinalli playing the Friar.
At times the cast made some good improvs, particularly Johnny Blaze Leavitt's "I just think Palm Pilot sounds dirty." But no matter how amusing it was, almost all of the additional dialog was out of place, and inappropriate.
(Also featuring Layla Rosenfeld, Caprice Royal, Martin Verni, Daniel Vernola, Melanie Kuchinski, Karron Karr, Chris Keating, Fred DeReau, Paul Weissman, Gerard J.Savoy, Stacey Turner, Joshua Furr, Marc Adam Smith, Sean Rodriguez and Christopher Sheldon.)
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Copyright 2003 Charles Battersby