By BRINTON WILKINS
Sitting on the Pardoe Drama Theatre’s stage, the set for “Much Ado About Nothing” threatens, but fails, to upstage an engrossing and thoroughly enjoyable production.
It isn’t every day that a set poses such a problem. And it isn’t every day that a performance succeeds as well as this one.
Every facet of the performance, from costumes to scenery to acting, works to complement each other and bring Shakespeare’s tale to vibrant life.
“Much Ado” is set in Messina, Italy, and tells of the romance between a soldier named Claudio and a well-born lady named Hero. Their relationship is almost destroyed by lies spread by Don John, the brother of Claudio’s captain.
A marvelous Mediterranean flavor is created by the set. The designers have created a two-story set built on a turntable. Divided into fourths, each quarter represents a different locale.
Hanging balconies, wrought-iron staircases and stain-glassed windows all swing into position as the story flows seamlessly from scene to scene.
This beautiful set complements an equally solid and detailed cast.
James Mack’s Benedick and Melissa Yacktman’s Beatrice capture the audience’s attention, but never upstage other actors–something that those characters can easily do.
J. Scott Bronson deserves special recognition. His portrayal of Hero’s father, Leonato, shows a broad range of contrasting emotions. From sheer giddiness to deepest despair, Bronson’s character is brilliantly alive.
“Much Ado,” while being a romantic comedy, has tragic elements and requires a wide range of acting ability. Each cast member measures up to the challenge.
Costumes in bright colors create a sumptuous feeling while emphasizing thematic content.
Flowing pastel dresses match the muted beauty of the set.
And though Don John’s costumes obviously mark him as the villain, such techniques are used skillfully and sparingly.
The lighting was striking. A beautiful sunrise effect showcased the skill of the lighting designers and production staff.
The only thing that marred this production was that it looked remarkably like Kenneth Branagh’s movie version.
But, that aside, this production soars. Forsooth, to miss this “Much Ado,” aye, that would be a blunder.
“Much Ado About Nothing” will play Tuesday through Saturday until April 8. Tickets can be purchased at the HFAC ticket office and cost $10 for general public and $8 for students and faculty.