Saturday, March 27, 2010

Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare

By Joe Straw

The rain was pouring like proverbial cats and dogs. Visibility down to zero and traffic moving along like an old cat on his last journey. And yet, the journey had its remarkable end, A Noise Within Theatre (ANW) in Glendale, California to see Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare.

Outside, in the cold wet air, darkness prevailed. There appeared to be no one at ANW and upon further inspection, coming closer, only two drench souls were visible.

Were we there on the wrong night? No. The box office lights were on. And shortly thereafter a ticket being entered the room.

When entering ANW a calm prevails, the feeling is a welcoming warmth that permeates your entire soul. The warmth ness lifts you up the long flight of stairs. (And stairs never seemed so easy.) There you discover a packed house of eager theatergoers. Surely, by the look of things, this must be one of the most remarkable theatre companies in Los Angeles.

Much Ado About Nothing directed by Michael W. Murray is a grand production. Set in the town of Messina, circa 1890’s this production is a costumed spectacle, with intelligent women and bewildered young men. Where the gorgeous dancers in beautiful masks scoff at harmony. And the shadows play on puzzled hearts as the night serves as a cloak for confused lovers. And in this darkness there is mischief, mirth, conniving peculiarities, and love. And oh, this is so much fun!

Beatrice (Torri Higginson) and Benedick (JD Cullum) are not in love, or so they say, in a way (to each other).

Hero (Lindsay Gould) and Claudio (Brandon Hearnsberger) are madly in love with each other but young love questions the other’s true feelings. Or so they say. (In a way.)

Leonato (Apollo Dukakis) has invited the Prince, Don Pedro (Patrick O’Connell) along with his consorts Benedick, Claudio, Don John (Stephen Rockwell), Borachio (Steve Weingartner) and Conrade (Shaun Anthony) for a stay at his villa.

They frolic in the company of each other while enjoying the word play of man versus woman. They also try to find love.

But there’s always a catch in love. Don Pedro’s brother, Don John, not satisfied with his role in life, wants to create mischief and will stop at nothing to make the lovers life miserable. His games are serious, a yearning to destroy young love for reasons that are not entirely clear. Jealously may be his motive but revenge is certainly his drug of choice. And to top that off he’s pure evil.

And when things start to get really serious in the second act, friends are pitted against each other and lovers are destroyed. But fear not, this is a comedy and things must work out in the end. (Or so they say.)

Prose aside, the makeup of the audience, has this blogger perplexed. It’s not like any other audience you see in town. One can only imagine that students of the craft flock to see how imaginative things can be on stage. To study and learn the art of the craft and be entertained, all at the same time is a wonderful thing.

Cullum is an amazing actor. As Benedict he commands the stage. Coy when he wants to be, hilarious at times, and dramatic when the action calls for it.

Higginson’s Beatrice is just as commanding. Lovely when she wants to be, funny when appropriate, and oh so serious at times.

O’Connell’s Don Pedro gave a masterful performance. He grew in stature as the night wore on. Just an amazing performance!

Mark Bramhall as Dogberry gave a performance of a lifetime. He is an actor in the moment and hilarious. Certainly a performance to watch, study and steal from. His imaginative choices kept all eyes on him and his next move.

This was a wonderfully cast also featuring Peter Larney as Balthasar, Mitchell Edmonds as Verges, Alicia Bruckman, Maxwell Schneller and Peter Larney as Members of the Watch, Abigail Caro as Margaret, Heather Grace as Sarah, Jonathon Lamer as Father Francis, and Hugh Mason as Antonio.

Michael W. Murray, as the director, does a magnificent job. He is very creative, and imaginative as he moves the actors delicately across the stage and even sometimes have them groveling on the floor. This is a very funny production and easy to understand.

Soojin Lee as the costume designer does a marvelous job. Check out her amazing work on

Julia Rodriguez-Elliott choreographs a couple of dance numbers, which were just incredible and thought provoking. Well worth the price of admission.

Not sure how ANW (Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott) does it, but do it, they do. One hit show after the next! And the craft is nothing short of excellent! Los Angeles deserves A Noise Within. Run to see this production and support this excellent theatre.

ANW is breaking ground on a new facility in Pasadena. Please go to their website at and support the theatre and it’s move.

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