Friday, September 30, 2011

Much Ado About Nothing

"Is falling in love only for the young?"

This is the advertising catch phrase used for the Guthrie Theater's newest production of Shakespeare's rightly beloved play, Much Ado About Nothing.

With the baby boom generation getting along in years - no offense, I'm just sayin' - it looks as though being old is cool again.  Or at least not as un-groovy as it used to be.  One example is the actress Helen Mirren. She's well beyond qualifying for AARP and was recently voted sexiest woman alive, beating out much younger sex pots, like Megan Fox.  Okay.  Sixty is the new twenty. 

So, when director Joe Dowling put 60-something actors, Dearbhla Molloy and Daniel Gerroll*, in the roles of Beatrice and Benedick, it was unusual, but not nearly as far-fetched as what other directors have done with the bard.  The witty wordplay, comic timing, and a few clues within the text indicate that Beatrice and Benedick have known each other for some time and have a rather unhappy history, making the older casting not improbable. 

The difficulty came for me when the production's pace became not merely mature, but geriatric.  Molloy and Gerroll are amazing actors, I do not argue that, but despite their pedigrees, their romance left me rather cold, and that's difficult to do since the romance between Beatrice and Benedick is my favorite in all of Shakespeare's work.  Gerroll has the ability to convey a world of emotion in the lift of an eyebrow; Molloy can say volumes with the quirk of her lips, so I was amazed at how often he did not raise that eyebrow, she did not quirk that lip.  The emotion and energy were stunted somewhere, in Gerroll or Molloy or both; I'm not certain where the breakdown came.  Or were they directed to under-act?  Under-acting, I discovered tonight, is nearly as annoying to watch as over-acting.    

The relationship of Beatrice and Benedick is at the heart of the play.  If it is right, then the rest of the play can be mediocre and one might hardly notice.  Thankfully, the rest of the cast had some shining stars, like Michelle O'Neill as Hero, Emily Gunyou Halaas as Margaret, Bob Davis as Borachio, and Dennis Creaghan as Leonato. 

Sets were lovely and costumes were gorgeous.  The production was set in the late Edwardian era, perhaps to capitalize on the Downton Abbey craze.  The flowing dresses, the ladies' huge, feathered hats, the shoes - love, love, love, the shoes.  The music, composed by Adam Wernick, suited the era and made for some fun dance scenes. 

So, since this is my blog and on here I can be the expert if I want to be, I would have to give this production of Much Ado About Nothing, a solid B. 

*Gerroll turns 60 on October 16 of this year.

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