Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

More Than Meets the Eye

June 30, 2011

Jonno Roberts and Georgia Hatzia Photo: Henry DiRocco/Old Globe 2011

San Diego’s Old Globe Theater has officially kicked off their Summer Shakespeare Festival this year, which includes new productions of The Tempest, Much Ado About Nothing, and Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus. And while outdoor Shakespeare abounds everywhere these days, The Old Globe has a history of remarkably strong productions from great directors that make an ideal quick weekend getaway for anyone whether or not they live in Southern California. On Wednesday I caught the last of the three productions to open this Summer, the Ron Daniels-directed Much Ado About Nothing and was taken with how refined and multi-layered it was. Los Angeles audiences will remember Daniels’ last Southern California offering, the Los Angeles Opera world premiere of Daniel Catán’s Il Postino, which opened the season here in 2010. Daniels does many smart things with Shakespeare’s comedy, but my favorite is that he doesn’t exactly treat Much Ado About Nothing like it is one.

That’s not to say this isn’t a funny show. It is, with plenty of laughs and some of the wittiest insults and language play that Shakespeare wrote. But Daniels knows that even Shakespeare’s most un-“problematic” of comedies harbor much darker sides than they are sometimes given credit for. Much Ado About Nothing is on one level a comic war between the sexes. It’s typically given a zingy, lighthearted twist as barbs fly between the shrewish Beatrice, played here by a lovely and very engaging Georgia Hatzis, and her flustered sparring partner Benedick, played by an equally pleasing and awfully attractive Jonno Roberts. The chemistry between these two characters drives this play, and these are performances to savor.

But not everyone walks away from this battle unscathed, and much of Much Ado About Nothing rotates around false accusations of infidelity, public humiliation, and a young woman faking her own death. Faith and friendship are tested and there are some beautiful reflections on these topics that get lost easily with too zany an approach. The Old Globe and Daniels have managed a near perfect balance: one that preserves the promised comedy while making the pretenses of these laughs problematic enough to give the show weight and motion.

The production moves the setting to the early 19th century, which gives the proceedings an attractive look with period costumes in a rather sparse outdoor set. The pacing is good, and things move along quickly without being rushed. There is a minimal amount of singing and dancing for the cast to perform and some of it comes off better than others. Not all of the supporting cast come through as strongly as Roberts and Hatzis, but these are secondary issues. The show is quite good, and since it runs through September 24, you should have plenty of time to get down to San Diego to see it.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?



Opera Reviews '10-'11

Opera Reviews '09-'10

Opera Reviews '06-'09

L.A. Phil Reviews '09/'10

L.A. Phil Reviews '08/'09

L.A. Theater Reviews


Follow Along


Los Angeles

Follow me on Twitter