Carte Blanche’s “Much Ado” is a Must Do
Shakespeare’s work (it can be argued) can either be overdone or misunderstood… or both. Many actors and theater productions err on the side of treating his work as a sacred text. The results are performances that are uninspired, stiff, pompous and flat-out boring. Shakespeare was human, after all – he put on his doublet one arm at a time. Walker’s Point’s Carte Blanche Studios’ production of Much Ado About Nothing successfully avoids these pitfalls and provides the audience with a natural, mirthful and inspired production.
While Much Ado is a romantic comedy that merrily portrays a battle of the sexes, it also deals with more sobering political and societal issues like status, honor and shaming. Romeo and Juliet may be the most “romantic” of Shakespeare’s plays, but Much Ado is more relatable and romantically honest. Jordan Gwiazadowksi and Emily Craig are both fantastic in their roles as the clever protagonists Benedik and Beatrice. They demonstrate chemistry as well as a mastery of their lines and understanding of their characters. Gwiazadowksi manages to make Benedick endearing, hilarious and tender, even during his slightly histrionic moments. Like Rosalind in As You Like It, Beatrice is a challenging role, as she is one of Shakespeare’s stronger, progressive and more complex females. Many actresses play her as too cold or too shrew-like; Craig does neither and likably comes across as independent yet vulnerable.
The handmade costumes and masks are beautiful and help to serve as well placed non-verbal cues to assist in the storytelling. The performance flows along naturally and even includes two well-performed musical nods to Kenneth Branagh’s film version (scored by the brilliant Patrick Doyle) that still manage to seem original. Bryon Krueger’s (Balthasar) hilarious rendition of Doyle’s “Sigh No More Ladies” keeps the pace moving along and adds to the joviality of the first part of the performance. Brad Novak (Claudio) deserves a special mention for his performance of “Pardon Goddess of the Night” (Hero’s funeral song) which is a pretty difficult piece to sing.
One of the best aspects of the performance is how easily the cast transitions from the first half’s lighthearted and witty banter to the more serious topics of the second half. Michael Keiley (Dogberry) provides a hilarious and memorable comic relief to the second half of the performance. Director Jimmy Dragolovic’s performance as Don John (the villain) is perfectly cliche.
It was a wonderful night of theater, and I urge you to get thee to the theater to see this performance before it ends on March 7.
“Much Ado About Nothing” runs through March 7, 2010 at the company’s intimate, 60-seat space at 1024 S. 5th Street. Ticket information and schedule Carte Blanche’s website.