Much Ado About Nothing is a Hilberry Theatre Must See
By SUE SUCHYTA
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Wayne State University’s Hilberry graduate theatre company launched an exciting and innovative run of William Shakespeare’s romantic comedy “Much Ado About Nothing” Oct. 28 to an appreciative opening night house.
The show runs through Nov. 19, 2011 at the Hilberry Theatre, 4743 Cass at Hancock on the Wayne State campus in Detroit. Because of some of the innovative set elements in use, the show will run for 23 days instead of in rotating repertory for several months with other productions.
For tickets and more information call (313) 577-2972 or go to www.hilberry.com.
Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” focuses on two couples and the rollercoaster ride of their attractions, as well as how both the treachery and loyalty of others can either ruin or strengthen their bonds of love. Fast paced and full of fascinating characters, the show is a wonderful vehicle for the talented Hilberry Company.
Visiting director Matthew Earnest went beyond the basics and added many fascinating layers to the production that made it both thought-provoking and entertaining.
The talented cast is very believable and easy to understand, and they have fun with the physicality of the show, which includes a colorful costume party, singing and dancing, and several plots cleverly wrapped around the scheming storyline.
There are fun-to-discover technical innovations as well. Rain is used as a scenic element, draining into an onstage pea-gravel bed that actually looks like a stage-sized kitty litter box. It is fun to see the pre-wedding partiers cavort in the rain with their different masked costumes.
Once one gets over the “snap, crackle and pop” whenever the actors move on the pea gravel it actually takes on a life of its own and seemingly acquires its own eccentric, almost musical personality.
The dominate set piece, designed by Pegi Marshall-Amundsen, is a large green, foliage covered wall with multiple hidden windows and doors that reminds one of the iconic Laugh In television show set piece. In addition to allowing characters to rapidly pop in and out, it facilitates the smooth, seamless flow of scenes.
The two couples – bold Beatrice and Benedick, and contrastingly quiet Claudio and Hero, are played respectively by talented and entertaining third year company members Vanessa Sawson, Dave Toomey, Christopher Ellis and Carollette Phillips respectively, providing the backbone of the storyline.
The remarkable cast also includes Alec Barbour as Don Pedro, Danielle Cochrane as Margaret, Megan Dobbertin as Ursula, Brent Griffith as Leonato, Sara Hymes as Verges, Sharayah Johnson as the Sexton, Zach Johnson as Watch 2, Edmund Alyn Jones as Borachio, Andrew Papa as Don John, Topher Payne as Balthasar, Jonathan Pigott as Watch 1, Joshua Blake Rippy as Dogberry, David Sterritt as Conrade and Lorelei Sturm as Friar Francis.
Christopher Call, as Antonio, appeared in many Henry Ford Community College plays before earning a BS in theatre at Eastern Michigan University. As a new first-year company member he made his Hilberry debut in “Much Ado About Nothing.”
While many of the costumes intentionally follow a beige or army fatigue camouflage color palette, which contrasts nicely against the leafy green set wall, the costume party provides costume designer Jessica Van Essen with a creative outlet, with everything from animal masks to dressing Dave Toomey in a sequined black velvety long evening gown.
The entire Hilberry graduate company, with a few undergraduate actors and the expertise of the graduate technical theater team provide a theatrical treat that showcases one of the Bard’s much-loved plays from a fresh performance and technical standpoint that is still loyal to Shakespeare’s original intent.
For more information, call (313) 577-2972 or go to www.hilberry.com.