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14 San Diego Uptown News | July 22–August 4, 2011


‘Much Ado About Nothing’ A comedy rife with malice and deception

By Patricia Morris Buckley SDUN Theater Critic

“Much Ado About Nothing” is one of Shakespeare’s strang- est plays. It’s often advertised as a comedy, yet running through it is a dark ribbon of malice and deception. So odd is that forebod- ing vein that the happy ending— hence the title—feels tacked on and counterfeit. Yet “Much Ado” remains one

of the Bard’s most entertaining and popular works. As dishonest as the resolution feels, audiences still rejoice to see lovers conquer great odds and horrible evil. The Old Globe’s production,

helmed by Ron Daniels, comes as close to solving this incongruity as any I’ve seen. Daniels accom- plishes this by striking a pastoral tone in the opening scene (the play begins with women singing and sewing), insightful casting (especially the roles of Benedick and Beatrice) and a musical setting (score by Dan Moses Schreier) that keeps much of the action light-hearted.

“Much Ado” begins as a war ends and Prince Don Pedro returns home with his soldiers, especially close friends Benedick and Claudio. They stop at the home of Leonato, governor of Messina, who welcomes them with open arms. Immediately Claudio, who distinguished him- self during the war, falls in love

with Leonato’s daughter and heir, Hero. Given everyone’s bless- ing, they plan to wed seven days hence. As everyone is feeling the joys

of a country at peace, the party decides to trick curmudgeon and confirmed bachelor Benedick to fall in love with the sharp-witted Beatrice, Hero’s pretty but man- hating cousin. The men lead Benedick to believe that Beatrice is in love with him, while the women convince Beatrice that Benedick is passionately on fire for her. And it works. All this merriness is interrupt- ed by Don John, the prince’s evil brother. He manipulates Claudio into believing that Hero already has a lover and the easily fooled Claudio confronts her at the altar by refusing to marry her. Many twists and turns ensue before the lovers are reunited. The tone between Beatrice

and Benedick is always the trickiest element in the show, as they must be tart-tongued and yet easily carried away by love. Jonno Roberts plays the role of Benedick as socially awkward, someone who is more at ease in the company of men than females. Georgia Hatzis is all bluster as Beatrice, but never a total porcupine. Their chemistry is subtle and rich, which makes us feel as if we’re watching real people (it helps that they are actually married). This ele-


When: Through Sept. 24 Where: Old Globe Theatre, Balboa Park Tickets: Begin at $29 Info: (619) 23-GLOBE Web:

ment works to ground the other wooing pair, roles that are more shallowly written.

Kevin Alan Daniels and

Winslow Corbett try their best as Claudio and Hero. The fact that they are a cute couple (which also worked in “The Tempest”) helps. John Cariani has a great deal of fun as Dogberry, the ignorant and boisterous head of the citizen’s night watch and the results are extremely amusing. This is Ralph Funicello’s finest set of the three productions run- ning in repertory. Beveled glass doors inlaid into ornate wrought iron suggest transparency (which Daniels uses to good effect, showing dancers in other rooms or characters eavesdropping) and also the ability to shut things out. Kudos also to fight director Steve Rankin for a beautiful sword fight that feels more like a ballet. There’s nothing that can change the fact that “Much Ado About Nothing” is a flawed

Jonno Roberts as Benedick and Georgia Hatzis as Beatrice in “Much Ado About Nothing” (Courtesy Henry DiRocco)

play. That Claudio is so quick to spurn Hero without hearing her side of what turns out to be a trick (the “Nothing” of the title) and that Hero is quick to forgive and wed him is worthy of a Disney TV show, not one of the greatest playwrights of

all time. Yet within those limitations, the Globe’s production is light- hearted and magical. It fills many of the play’s gaps and provides yet another magical evening at the outdoor Lowell Davies Festi- val Theatre.u


Horton Plaza. Written by the Who’s Pete

Townshend and Des McAnuff (then artistic director of La Jolla Playhouse), the rock musical premiered at La Jolla Playhouse in 1992. The story concerns Tommy, who at age 4 witnesses his father accidentally kill his mother’s lover. As a result, the child be- comes blind, deaf and mute, and the only thing he responds to is an old pinball machine. Dubbed the “Pinball Wizard,” Tommy begins a magical journey out of the darkness of disability, a tale told in scores including “Pinball Wizard” and the unforgettable “See Me, Feel Me.” Two-time Grammy Award

nominee and African-American B. Slade (formerly known as Ton3x) plays the title role. Slade, who received a 2008 San Diego Critics’ Circle Award for his appearance in San Diego Musical Theatre’s “Dreamgirls,” said that after that ceremony Woodhouse, who had directed him earlier that year in the Rep’s “Princess and the Black-Eyed Pea” congratulated him on his award and said, “We love you at the Rep. I want to build some- thing around you.” After agree- ing, Slade said he then waited three years for Woodhouse’s email. But finally, the long antici- pated day arrived, and the pair met “at a quaint little North Park restaurant.” “When [Woodhouse] said, ‘I want you to be Tommy,’ I thought

see Tommy, page 14

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