Seeing Shakespeare’s comedy MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING in the intimate open-air Frank Stephens Memorial Theater in Arden, Delaware, surrounded by a canopy of tall trees is a terrific treat, especially as this particular cast, directed by Mary Catherine Kelley, has a good grasp of the style and spirit of the story.
The comely Count Claudio (handsomely portrayed by Colin Antes), after setting eyes on lovely Hero (sweetly rendered by Emma D. Orr), is captured by her visage, falling as if struck by Cupid’s arrow, in love. Hero happily accepts Claudio’s affections on word from Don Pedro (well balanced performance by Robert Tietze), and blessing from her father, but Don John (good villainy by Dan Tucker), Pedro’s brother, plots a misfire between the lovers, sending their vows askew. Meanwhile, Beatrice (sharply played by Kerry Kristine McElrone), Hero’s cousin and Benedick (given great verve by Adam Wahlberg), right hand to Claudio, exchange barbs, feigning dislike for each other, and are ‘tricked’ by their friends into love’s alignment. The audience certainly hopes these double blind lovers ultimately find true happiness, for they are obviously well matched (and well cast).
Adam Wahlberg brings a special vivacity to Benedick, playfully taunting all in a clarion voice with skill and ease. He and Kerry Kristine McElrone as Beatrice banter and mock beautifully, energizing the overall performance. Colin Antes and Emma D. Orr as Claudio and Hero play wonderfully against each other and easily win the audience to their side! Robert Tietze manages to give strength and heart to Don Pedro, while Dan Tucker plays an excellent cold villain as Don John, and James Kassees as Leonato, Hero’s father, and Tom Wheeler as his brother Antonio discharge their roles with aplomb. Lucy Smith provides much mirth as Margaret with Elise D’Avella as Ursula, playing Hero’s gentlewomen attendants, and Rebecca Fisher sings a lovely tune as Balthasar, singing attendant to Don Pedro. John King gives a strong, commanding performance as the Friar. Aaron Tanzer and Ken Wilson are hiliarious in their roles as the bumbling First and Second Watchmen, with their awkward antics, adding to the guffaws along with Tim Donovan, whose deadpan delivery and fabulous facial expressions as Constable Dogberry, fanned the outbreaks of laughter heard in the house. Aiding and abetting the comedic relief was Henry Moncure as assistant to Dogberry. Don John’s henchmen, Borachio and Conrad as played by Zach Theis and Allan Kieban, were well executed, enabling appropriate disdain from the audience. Sean McGuire’s expression and physicality lent depth to Don Pedro’s messenger, and Barbara Schlenger-Faber brought pluck to the role of the Sexton. Every member of this cast furnished this fun show with remarkable talent.
Music (Emily Loney, Rachel Loney, Melanie Riblett and Sam Arthur, directed by John King) played a variety of clever roles in the production as well, and was not only instrumental in enhancing mood and providing lovely melodies between scene changes, but for sound effects and actual aural interaction with players! The delightful lilting music, use of nature’s assets as set and stage, with effective yet minimal props and lighting, and well apportioned period costume (Judith Calhoun), combine to create a splendidly engaging environment in which to experience Shakespeare’s show. Forthwith, bring along some bug repellent and a blanket for your seat, buy a Bard cookie (a must !), and revel beneath the heavens with the talented cast of MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
by William Shakespeare
Directed by Mary Catherine Kelley
Music Director/Composer, John King
June 7-22, 2013
Arden Shakespeare Gild
Frank Stephens Memorial Theatre & Gild Hall
2126 The Highway
Arden, DE 19810