Review: Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare

The Stratford Festival of Canada presents

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
by William Shakespeare

The CAST

LEONATO’S HOUSEHOLD
Leonato GARY REINEKE
Antonio PAUL SOLES
Hero ADRIENNE GOULD
Beatrice LUCY PEACOCK
Margaret NICOLÁ CORREIA-DAMUDE
Ursula DIANE D’AQUILA
Servants SEAN BAEK BCC, ALISON DEON,
JONATHAN GOULD, BRIAN HAMMAN,
KEIRA LOUGHRAN,
ANDREW MASSINGHAM,
SHAUN McCOMB, SANJAY TALWAR

THE SOLDIERS
Don Pedro SHANE CARTY
Don John WAYNE BEST
Signor Benedick PETER DONALDSON
Signor Claudio JEFFREY WETSCH
Balthasar JACOB JAMES
Soldiers BRIAN HAMMAN, ANDREW MASSINGHAM,
SANJAY TALWAR

TOWNSPEOPLE OF MESSINA
Dogberry ROBERT PERSICHINI
Verges BERNARD HOPKINS
Conrade ROBERT KING
Borachio THOM MARRIOTT
Friar Francis IAN DEAKIN
Sexton DON CARRIER
Watch SEAN BAEK, JONATHAN GOULD,
BRIAN HAMMAN, ANDREW MASSINGHAM,
SHAUN McCOMB, SANJAY TALWAR
Musicians EUGENE LASKIEWICZ (Accordion),
TERRY McKENNA (Guitar), PHILIP SEGUIN
(Cornet, Trumpet), HENRY ZIELINSKI (Violin)

UNDERSTUDIES
SEAN BAEK (Conrade), DON CARRIER (Don John, Friar),
NICOLÁ CORREIA–DAMUDE (Hero),
IDAN deSALAIZ (Watch, Servants, Soldiers), IAN DEAKIN (Benedick),
ALISON DEON (Margaret),
MICHELLE FISK (standby for Beatrice), JONATHAN GOULD (Balthasar),
BRIAN HAMMAN (Claudio),
JACOB JAMES (Verges), ROBERT KING (Leonato), KEIRA LOUGHRAN (Ursula), THOM MARRIOTT (Don Pedro), ANDREW MASSINGHAM (Antonio, Dogberry), SHAUN McCOMB (Sexton),
SANJAY TALWAR (Borachio)
Place: Messina, Italy
Time: 1910

Another tour de force for Peter Donaldson, with some strong supporting performances by Robert Perschini as Dogberry, Bernard Hopkins as Verges, Nicola Correia-Damaude as Margaret, Diane D’Aquila as Ursula and Gary Reineke as Leonato.

I did not mention Lucy Peacock as Beatrice: I found her too shrill and disagreeable; there is a fine line to be tread in this character, and Peacock overstepped the bounds of disagreeability: she gave Donaldson a tough woman to fall in love with, and more is the power for him for making the Herculean task seem plausible. While I am on the subject of Beatrice, I cannot understand how she caught the cold that surfaces briefly after the garden scene. I have seen several other versions of the play in which she is caught in watering activities in the garden as she lurks to overhear the ladies’ gossip about Benedick’s passion, but in this production, she is given no cause. It is as if the director gave the play too little thought, as if we all know it, so why waste time on trivialities; the play will explain itself.

Donaldson at first seemed too old for Benedick, and it took a while for me to grow accustomed to his portrayal; yet, I was soon buying him as the convert to love. I think he is the strongest Benedick of the several I have seen, and I have seen some fine Benedicks. He possesses a plausibility onstage that infuses the character.

Persichini’s Dogberry was remarkable: he made the character into a true original. First, his costume gave him a remarkable tool, as it was a huge dark green (I think) suit, quite unlike the watch costumes. His deliberate pace allowed the malapropisms in his lines to sink in, even as the audience laughed over many of them. His body posturings again, slow and deliberate created the concept that the great obtuse mechanism that was Dogberry’s brain (lodged somewhere behind his heavily furred brows) was fairly clogged with indecipherable information that just had to find its way into his mouth and out into the air, where it would puzzle us as much as it seemed to soothe him. The lovely thing is that it was here in the tangled warrens of his brain that the truth of the play reposed (struggled?) Hopkins’ Verges was a wonderful little munchkin in contrast to the hulking Dogberry, and his costume with its earflaps and greatcoat was a classic.
In the same ilk, D’Aquila presented us with a textured Ursula, complete with ideosyncratic ticks and twitches, much more interesting than Hero, the engenue, which is a part that is hopelessly mired in limitations imposed by the script. Correia-Damude, on the other hand, presented us with a sensuous and lovely Margaret, a contrasting character who was likeable in a way that made her acceptable as an innocent in the sabotage plot, in a way that modern audiences would have difficulty accepting, if you consider that she was a willing accomplice in John’s foul scheme to discredit Hero.
Reinke’s Don Leonato, the character around whose morality the entire play pivots was another rich depiction by an actor with a Lear-like quality.

The script provides many interesting challenges, from the Othello-like Hero-Claudio plot, (which I think is more plausible in this hokey setting than in Othello itself), to the contrasting Dogberry-watch plot, to the featured Beatrice-Benedick intrigue. Aside from my disappointment with Beatrice, I really enjoyed this production — and that in spite of the fact that I was enduring a very sore throat from an oncoming cold, which should make me sympathize with Beatrice, but does not.

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About riverwriter

Poet, playwright, duplicate bridge player, website designer, cottager, husband, father, grandfather, former athlete, carpenter, computer helper for my friends, theatre designer, backstage polymath, retired teacher of highschool English, drama, art, a baritone singer in a barbershop quartet, who knows what else? wordcurrents is on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wordcurrents/ Doug also has a Facebook page, "Incognitio", related to his novels.
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