“Much Ado” review by New Monitor

Innovative ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ at Hilberry

By Robert Delaney, New Monitor

View original article here.

Deceptions and misperceptions cause mischief in William Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado About Nothing, the latest offering at Wayne State University’s Hilberry Theatre.

Guest director Matthew Earnest has given us an innovative and very amusing production of the play, bringing to it the imagination that has earned him a number of prestigious awards and set the stage, so to speak, for the launch of his own national touring company next year.

Add in the fine talents of the Hilberry’s grad-student cast, and this production becomes an excellent choice for either seasoned Shakespeare lovers or for a person’s first exposure to the Bard’s works.

To be sure, modern dress and contemporary music and dance in a Shakespeare production don’t always work, and can even be quite annoying. But in this case, they are fun and amusing, even delightful.

This is one of those Hilberry productions where everybody is good, though some are outstanding.

Although the play focuses on the stories of two sets of lovers, it is that of Beatrice and Benedick that offer the richest treasure of memorable lines. And this production has a very saucy and sharp-witted Beatrice in the person of Vanessa Sawson and a truly memorable Signor Benedick in Dave Toomey. Toomey’s performance, in particular, is full of clever subtlety. Definitely one of the best Benedicks I’ve ever seen.

As the play’s other lovers, Carollette Phillips is a very sweet Hero and Christopher Ellis gives us a believable forthright, but easily deceived, Signor Claudio. Fine performances are also given by, among others, Alec Barbour as Don Pedro, Brent Griffin as Leonato and Danielle Cochrane as Margaret. Joshua Blake Rippy was funny as Constable Dogberry, but I thought he could have made rather more of his role than he does.

Jessica Van Essen’s costumes serve the production well. I wasn’t at all sure, at first, that I’d like Pegi Marshall-Amundsen’s set, but I grew to appreciate it very much. George Abud’s original music is another great thing about this production.

SHOW DETAILS: Much Ado About Nothing continues through Nov. 19 at the Hilberry Theatre, at Cass and West Hancock on the WSU campus, in Detroit. For performance and ticket information, call 313-577-2972 or go to www.wsushows.com.


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