The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1238  Friday, 3 May 2002

From:           Jimmy Jung <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 3 May 2002 11:26:54 -0400
Subject:        DC Ado (leather pants)

>Takashi Kozuka forwarded Andrew Sullivan's
>"Shakespeare therapy in leather trousers," from
>The Times Online (21 April 2002)...


I went to see this last week on what may have been the opening, or may
have been a preview, I'm not sure.  It was the originally scheduled
opening, but I'm fairly certain the set had not been completely painted
and I know the programs were not expected until the next day.
Nevertheless, I wanted to share on an audacious little production.

If you are familiar with our little burgh of Washington, you may know
that there are two companies that have named themselves after Mr.
Shakespeare.  One operates downtown and is pretty well heeled, having
left the Folger Library's beautiful, but small renaissance theater, to
operate in a much larger and more lavish space built just for them.
This is the other company; they operate just across the river, in a
warehouse they converted with some scary-old movie seats.  But they
don't lack for courage.  Their production of Much Ado is clear
indication of that.

Initially, the set is given as a large white space marked with a thin
red grid.  Displayed in the center is a fantastical dress that matches
Anna Lascari's exhibit of imagined military armor for women, titled
"Women-at-arms" being shown in the lobby.  Although this dress is
cleared before the production begins, I mention it because these
elements "reappear," without explanation at critical junctures.  The
citizens of Messina seem to have an Italian sense of fashion and through
much of the first act, their attire and demeanor seems like that of the
fashion runways. Their entrances and exits are through trap doors and
combined with a Leonato, who reminded me of Alice's rabbit, in a highly
stylized set of white tails and enormous platform heels, the whole
effect was kind of "Milan-through-the-looking-glass" to me.  The
villains, on the other hand, have a punk rock sensibility; leather,
chains, safety pins.  Much of this is accomplished with the kind of
inventiveness demanded by the small theater, two simple planks of wood
acts as doors, tables, benches and other props.

There is a good bit of choreography and singing in the production, most
accomplished handily, and many of the longer explicatory  passages are
also render in song. In one of the coolest choices of the production,
you actually get to GO to the wedding, which is the remarkable high
point in the show.  Much of the latter part of the play experiments
strongly with the boundary between cast and audience.

Oddly enough, this Hero is not always the sweetest of maids, and seems
occasionally peevish, and sometimes a shade nasty to the household
staff, providing some justification for Margaret's conspicuous silence
during Claudio's accusations.

The cast has some of the unevenness you would have to expect of a
company this size.  Andrew Sullivan, as Benedick, is certainly the
highlight, but he is matched with a fairly strong Beatrice, who keeps
referring to him, pointedly as Bene-DICK.  A strong singing Claudio is
the center of the remarkable wedding.  And Don Pedro and Don John are
doubled in a very tough and often amusing performance.  Dogberry is
delivered with a sort of Dennis-Hopper craziness and the entire watch
gives you the high but sweet kind of funny.  The cast seemed a little
disjoint and bumpy through the complex entrances of the first act, but
the stage strips away as the show continues and they seem to warm up to
their task readying themselves for the entanglements of the ending. I'd
tell you who was who, but there were no programs.

There are certainly folks who will not like this production.  It is
wildly ambitious and pushy in its experimentation.  Choices are made
which defy any rationalization I can fathom.  There's a mysterious
voice, a scooter, and that whole women in armor thing.  Nevertheless,
when compared to the passionless Romeo and Juliet, across town, I'm
still inclined to applaud this companies daring. (especially if you can
find a half priced ticket).

If you are going to go, a couple hints, there are two intermissions.  I
had heard that in earlier previews, folks had left after the second
intermission, which occurs right after Claudio's nasty alter scene and
(recognizing that this could have been a critical decision,) I wonder if
these folks thought maybe Much Ado was a tragedy or didn't know that
Comedies don't end with the death of a young lover.  And stay in the
lobby, because Friar Francis delivers his little plan, sort of
tangentially, and if you wander off for a smoke, you might never figure
it out.

Ticketplace was handling half price tickets for the production, and more
interestingly, it was one of the productions they were processing
through there on-again/off-again on-line sales.  (i.e., no visit to the
postal pavilion)

As the Accents thread has become more and more involved, I have given it
less attention.  But I wonder, given the notion that accents might be
some critical element of the production.  Does that mean that
Shakespeare is too sacred for small companies (let alone high-schools)
to attempt?


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