Monday, July 20, 2015

Much Ado About Nothing—Post Five Theatre—Sellwood area, SE Portland


The Look of Love

This comedy by Shakespeare is directed by Darragh Kennan and is playing at their space at 1666 SE Lambert St. in Sellwood through August 16th.  For more information, go to their site at www.post5theatre.org  (Note:  They do have a parking lot in back but no A/C—although they do loan you individual, hand-held fans/misters for your time there—bless their hearts!)

Although considered one of his best and oft-down comedies, it is a strange one, too.  The first act is mainly played for laughs but the second one is much darker in tone.  It does have the usual masks/disguises, wise fools, idle lords and ladies and merry, madcap mix-ups.  But it also has one of the weaknesses of the Bard’s characters, villains with little, weak or no motivations for their actions.  In this case, Don John, seems to have no reason to cause havoc except that he’s just…an asshole!

But, even with that hiccup, this production is fun and accessible to a non-Shakespearean audience.  It is spoken naturally with conversational speech and is full of physical comedy so that you can easily decipher what’s going on.  This company has always aimed at this type of presentation with their Shakespeare and Kennan is a master at keeping the play moving, understandable and, above all, funny.

The Prince, Don Pedro (Paul Angelo), is coming back from the wars with two of his most eligible, confirmed bachelors (famous last words), Benedick (Ty Boice) and Claudio (Chip Sherman), looking for the rewards of a civilian life.  They find them, in part, with Beatrice (Cassandra Boice), daughter of Antonio (Dan Robertson), and the Governor, Leonato (Scott Parker), in his daughter, Hero (Aislin Courtis).  Hero is easily won over by Claudio, but Beatrice is an independent woman and has no need of marriage.  So says Benedick, who is equally stubborn, terse and pig-headed.

So family and friends, including Ursula (Pat Janowski) and Margaret (Olivia Weiss), servants to the ladies, conspire to get these two lovers together.  Meanwhile, back at the manor, we have a disgruntled Don John (Stan Brown), brother to Don Pedro, who seems to revel in causing mischief for his brother.  So he, and his mates, Borachio (Adam Elliot Davis) and Conrad (Sean Kelly), devise a method of smearing Hero’s reputation, giving the inference that she is not a maiden.

Needless to say, the marriage does not go as planned with some dire consequences.  But have no fear, Dogberry (Brown, again), is here and he and his Watch, Verges (Robertson, again), and their underlings, a Priest and a Sexton (Matt Insely, Mathew Sunderland and Byron Gilmer) have uncovered the plot and seek to keep the record straight, even to the fact that Dogberry is “an ass.”.  More I cannot tell l you but, keep in mind, this is a comedy, and things will be righted again.

Sherman is always a delight to observe and he even finally gets a chance to sing and dance a bit in this one, which is wonderful to observe.  The battling Boices are perfect for these roles.  The eavesdropping scenes with the two of them and their subsequent monologues are a highlight of the show.  And they have a natural flair of delivery which makes them very human.  It is grand to see Parker again onstage, as he was a prominent actor some years ago in the Portland area.  It’s good to see that his talent is still firmly intact and hope to see more of him in future productions.

Angelo is a well-known and very good director, as well.  He has a natural ease with this character and his experience shows.  Robertson, with his very mobile face and expressions, always lights up a show in all the roles he plays.  I’m sure we’ll see more of him, too.  And Brown in the dual roles of the fool and the villain is convincing in both.  Davis, as the chatterbox, Borachio, is very funny, as well.

The expressions, the sight-gags and double-takes, music, songs and dancing from 50+ years ago and easy and naturalist pacing keep this production on one’s must-see list.  Yes, it may be a hot time in the ole town tonight but this presentation will cool even the most savage of beasts.

I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.