Much Ado

What is it? Me, time or the bard? I ‘get’ Shakespeare’s tragedies every time. Don’t need to read them beforehand, or after, for them to make sense. But his comedies? Sometimes I catch myself dozing, even at the Guthrie’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream”. It almost seems that the comedies are written by a writer other than the author of the tragedies.

University Theatre at The UW-Superior presents a lively “Much Ado About Nothing” this weekend with performances Friday and Saturday, November 16 and 17 at 7:30pm and Sunday, November 18 at 1pm.

As ‘up’ as this show is, I still had to prick myself every now and then to stay focussed. And it wasn’t due to comfy seats. Mine seemed mushy in the middle, but my friend Joyce’s was a downright disaster, forcing her to finally move down the row at intermission. In trying out her vacated space, under the upholstery I found a ring of steel surrounding a soft depression. How she lasted till intermission, I’ll never know. So maybe avoid the front row.

“Much Ado About Nothing” may seem a fuss over small potatoes, but when matches are in the offing, perhaps there’s more at stake. Why go? Actor Meghan O’Toole-Gott, who just gets better over time, plays a feisty scarlet-clad Beatrice, a woman who vows that wedded bliss is not for her. Much of the interest is watching her slowly melt alongside an equally icy, meant-to-be mate, Benedick. Andrew Kirov does fine in the role.

Mitch Kieffer and Laura Halvorsen as betrothed Claudio and Hero are worth a watch as are Nick Isaacson and Quincy Roisum as sleazy Borachio and Conrad. The last two and other pairings constantly make comic, reachy steps in unison. Players trying to spy incognito employ skimpy branches as they role around onstage to better vantage points.

This is the play where dumby Dogberry shows up. Tim Sislo is the farcical Sheriff. Yoel Yohannes and Brandon Gordon give us good brother Princes, the Dons Pedro and John.

Note-worthy: Beatrice promises to eat all those killed in Benedick’s wars; Claudio declares his bride-to-be a slut; Leonato (Darrin Stewart) about daughter Hero: “Let her die.”

Director Kathy Fank, who is also the director of UWS Communications Department’s theater renderings, gives Shakespeare’s play a commedia dell’arte twist. A bevy of clowns, who also play some of the minor roles, emphasize various moments with twirly flute exclamations, tambour thumps and horn bleats. These white-suited clowns permeate the stage.

Much Ado is based on Italian plays as are a lot of Shakespeare’s works. One of his few works written in prose, this one playfully leads us down a goofy garden path.