Monday, October 22, 2012
Olathe Community Theatre "Much Ado About Nothing" review by BobEvans
Much Ado About Nothing
Olathe Community Theatre Association
Olathe Community Theater Association dove in head first after 39 seasons to produce their first Shakespearean play, and did they ever deliver a quality show. OCTA's Much Ado About Nothing is a wonderful romp through a Shakespeare comedy that involves humorous characters in a blend of mischief and mayhem to end with both a happy resolution and a happy audience.
Accolades for the production number many, but start by crediting the director, David Martin with assemblage of a top notch ensemble or actors who clearly love Shakespeare and understand how to perform it to the audience's delight. The depth of talent for this endeavor stands out with even the smallest parts. From the onset, Martin's cast filled their roles with vibrance, movement, balance, and dedication to the delight of the audience.
Much of the comedy in this romp depends on the characterization of the male and female leads. In this case, Justin Speer as Benedick, and Christina Schafer Martin, as Beatrice perform admirably. From their opening lines, they fulfill the aura of their characters and set them as opposing forces to be reckoned as the play progresses. These pivotal characterizations hold the key to the main plot to force two opposing personalities to love each other and eventually marry.
Speer and Martin "overhear" how the other character loves, wants, and desires them. Unfortunately, this opposite attraction ploy, keeps the audience engaged as the plot/ploy unfolds. The plan was placed in motion by two separate ploys--one comprised of women, and the other prodded by men. The actions of both Speer and Martin as they learn of their future mate's affections causes the audience to laugh throughout those scenes while other sub plots continue to develop.
Both Speer and Martin deliver sharp comedy with their delivery, their facial expression, and comedic movement. They understand their characters' strengths and weaknesses and use them deftly in this production. Watch for them in other area productions.
Take nothing away from the second leads in this production. A misstep by a weak actor could spell disaster for Much Ado's intricate blend of comedy and deceit. Hero, played by Erika Crane Ricketts and Claudio, portrayed by Ed Fogel, keep the action moving along. Hero helps create the ploy to bring Beatrice and Benedick together, while Claudio mistakenly believes he caused Hero's death because of his mis-accusation of infidelity on the eve of their marriage. Both actors show their range from comedy to tragedy as the plot unfolds.
But with all comedy, a villain necessitates plot development and movement. In this case, the dastardly Don John, played by Richard J. Burt steps up to the challenge. His villainy seeks to destroy the virtue of Hero and stop her impending marriage to Claudio. As he plots, plans, and executes his vile mission, he always remains in character. Mostly in tune with the other characters in the scenes, Burt plays off them to forward his plans.
Much Ado About Nothing creates some really funny characters, and several of which the audience does not meet until the second half. Most notably in the second half, audiences laugh at the antics of Dogberry, portrayed by Peter Leodedis, Watchman, performed by Joel Morrison, Seacoal, played by Bill Van Buskirk, and Verges, preformed by Tracy Fox. Their antics as the second half unfolds keeps audiences watching closely for each movement, gesture, and physical comedy prank they develop. Leondedis specifically steals several scenes with his apt delivery, physical comedy, and a banana which seems to keep audiences in wonder. Leondedis' lament that he was called an ass, continues to draw laughs from the audience because his character truly is an ass. And pay close attention to Morrison and Van Buskirk who entertain audiences with silent comedy before the second half "officially" begins.
Much Ado About Nothing also features many fabulous actors performing the Bard's words in a manner that even children could understand. Take nothing away from their performances. Even though some have smaller parts, it is the addition of all the smaller parts that make the show delightful and funny. Every actor worked well to produce this successful adaptation. Credit for a great show needs to be distributed amongst the supporting cast, some of which performed dual roles. The depth of talent of the cast is not always seen in smaller venues. In this case do not over look the performances of Charles Christesson as Leonato, Jackie Coomes as Margaret and Messenger, Jeremy Riggs as Don Pedro, Bill Bergman as Antonio, Michael Juncker as Comrade, Derrick Freeman as Borachio, Ellen DeShon as Ursula, and Mike Haskin as Friar Francis and Sexton.
For those possible attendees who think Shakespeare is too difficult or too high brow to entertain, begin by searching and reading brief synopsis of Much Ado About Nothing. That helps quell the fear. Knowing the plot a bit prior to viewing also help with the dialog. In this case, the dialog is fairly simple and easy to follow. Even difficult areas diminish due to the great delivery and facial expressions of the actors.
Fear not Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. Go and enjoy. The show features such a talented cast and names well recognized in the Kansas City theater world, Most performed in other venues around town in the past several years, and many performed in much larger roles than in this production. Much Ado About Nothing brought some of the most talented actors to Olathe for the opportunity to perform Shakespeare. Don't miss their united efforts to perform a Shakespearean comedy.