Sunday, September 5, 2010

Theatre review: "Much Ado About Nothing" from Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks-Sunday 5th September 2010

Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks this season offers a production of Much Ado About Nothing, one of Shakespeare’s better known comedies, although you may remember two principal characters, Beatrice and Benedick, more than the title. For people unfamiliar with the story there is a synopsis in the program book plus Alan Irvine tells the whole thing to the audience before the play begins.

I attended the opening day performance in Frick Park where the cast uniformly did well making the words heard and understood despite unexpectedly strong winds and regular overflights by airplanes. Moreover several people in major roles ably got across the essential meanings and intricacies of the text, especially Ricardo Vila-Roger as Benedick. Credit director Melissa Hill Grande for bringing that out and for making good and colorful use of the natural scenery with actors striding and gamboling purposefully amid the trees and on the grass. In this case, she staged most of the play at the bottom of a hill where much of the audience could sit quite close to the performers on self-provided chairs or blankets.

The production is essentially in contemporary clothes, as is normally the case. And, wisely, no attempt is made to speak in English accents. Characteristically as well some performers double in roles. Adam Pribila, convincingly cast as darkly tricky, mean-spirited Don John, also appears as a typical Shakespeare comic character, the malaprop-speaking Dogberry and Vila-Roger takes on Borachio, a not very nice follower of Don John. Except for changing clothes, neither of them does enough with the alternate characters to give them any distinction or meaningful development. I also saw George Hampe play Claudio, Benedick’s close friend who falls in love with the girl named Hero. Hampe played with sweet charm yesterday. But he will not continue in the role over the next weeks.

I regularly saw attentive smiles on people sitting around me, making look as if the audience was having a good time.

Next weekend the production of Much Ado About Nothing plays in West Park. The following weekend it moves to Mellon Park and then returns to Frick Park on September 25th and 26th. Admission is free and you can get more information at

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