Intrigue fosters and nearly destroys lovers.
A delightful Much Ado About Nothing, one of Last Leaf’s Shakespeare in the Park’s traveling productions, opened at the amphitheatre in Volunteer Park last weekend. Bowing to the realities of outdoor theatre, the producers cut the play down to one hour, which was just enough to get the drama, plot and beautiful language across to the audience, without boring them.
Much Ado about Nothing involves two interwoven romantic stories, one the inverse of the other. One relationship is derailed by intrigue; the other fostered by intrigue. For the times, Hero and Claudio are a conventional couple, they are attracted to each other, they wait until it is the “appropriate” time to get married, Claudio checks out the dowry and lineage of his prospective bride, gets permission from the authorities and proposes. All seems to go well…until the bastard brother of the Prince of Aragon tricks Claudio into believing that his bride was unchaste the night before the wedding.
On the other hand, Beatrice and Benedict are two unconventional lovers. Both are of an anti-social bent, one a confirmed bachelor, the other overly critical. For years, they have been covering up their mutual fear of other people and attraction for each other by witty insults and repartee. It is through lies and intrigue that their friends bring them together, and their unconventional version of love proves stronger than the more conventional love of Hero and Claudio.
The cast was strong with Jay Rairigh playing Benedic to Gail Wamba’s Beatrice. I was sitting as far back as I could and the actors were all audible, made the language come alive and the audience was enthralled.
Wisely, Last Leaf brought their own set to hide the ugliness of the stage at the amphitheatre and did their best to compensate for the absence of a balcony. Usually the scene where Claudio observes the maid disguised as Hero behaving unchastely utilizes a balcony. None was available so the scene was cut and recounted which was the sole flaw in this otherwise stellar production.
Given the explosion of outdoor Shakespeare at Volunteer Park in the last ten years, it really is time that the stage at the amphitheatre is relegated to the ash-bin of history and a proper stage for outdoor Shakespeare is constructed. Seattle Parks District owes it to the audience and to our underpaid and overworked actors.
Last Leaf’s Much Ado About Nothing is definitely not to be missed
Much Ado about Nothing. Last Leaf Production’s. Shakespeare in the Park. Free, Donations accepted. Touring the Puget Sound area. Schedule. http://www.lastleaf99.org/choir-Shakespeare.html