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Dramashop grants classic a modern look

Much Ado About Nothing

Dramashop 1997 IAP Major Production.

Written by William Shakespeare.

Directed by Michael Ouellette.

Starring Manish Goyal G, Tara Perry '97, Brett Taylor G, Genevieve Konopka '97, and MacMurray Whale G.

February 68, 1315, 8:00 p.m.

Kresge Little Theatre.

By Teresa Huang
Staff Reporter

Much Ado About Nothing is really something. Dramashop's Indepen-dent Activities Period production of this Shakespeare comedy is smart and entertaining, with much of the credit going to a decision to set old Messina in modern times. The setting of this production is a summer home where the president of the United States, Don Pedro (MacMurray Whale G), and his companions visit their good friend Leonato (Ira F. Gerhardt '99) for a month. Romance, betrayal, and hilarity follow in this brilliant interpretation of Shakespeare's play.

The president travels to Leonato's home with several companions - his evil brother Don John (Kevin Simmons '98) and his good friends Claudio (Brett Taylor G) and Benedick (Manish Goyal G). Claudio is taken by the beauty of Leonato's daughter, Hero (Genevieve Konopka '97), while Benedick begins his battle of wits with Beatrice (Tara Perry '97), Leonato's niece. Two fall in love easily while the other two fall in love after much bickering and intervention by their friends. Don John, determined to wreak havoc on the happiness of others, steps in with lies and deceit. But, as all Shakespearean comedies do, Much Ado About Nothing has a happy ending, and the journey there is most enjoyable.

The cast of Much Ado About Nothing is excellent. Never did the energy fall from even one individual, nor did they break character except in a few cases where laughter over the brilliance of what they were doing broke through their demeanors. The set is beautiful and professional, as is the lighting and costuming.

The star of the show is surely Manish Goyal G as the charismatic yet stubborn bachelor Benedick. His portrayal is fantastic, humorous and completely natural on stage with his role and with his fellow actors. His talented performance beats Kenneth Branagh any day. Beatrice, played by Tara Perry '97, is a perfect complement to Goyal's Benedick. She's headstrong, emotional, and shines on stage through Perry. Their chemistry and playful scorn for each other is perfect. They are a delight to watch with each other as well as separately.

The rest of the characters in the play are equally developed and polished. Don Pedro's demeanor fit his words and character; he carries himself as a villain. It was interesting how often he spoke when turned away from the audience, almost as if to somehow represent his evil nature. Also strongly characterized were Ursula (Ania Busza '99) and the dancing Antonio (Charles Armesto '96), whose characters had fewer lines than most but still held a substantial stage presence.

True to Shakespeare's tradition of comic relief, the watchmen - Dogberry (Ryan Kershner '98), his partner Verges (Rob Marcato '97), and two policemen (Jeremy Lueck '99 and Sarah McDougal '00) - were played with tremendous humor, and even though they had a small number of lines, their characters were developed well.

Most impressive was the choice to transfer the characters of Much Ado About Nothing to a current setting, which turned out to be extremely fitting. Each character truly understood their place in this modern day world. The actors were not just people dressed in modern clothes reciting Shakespeare, but rather a cast of players proving that Shakespeare's humor is timeless and powerful. After a while, you forget that this play was written centuries ago.

Much Ado About Nothing is fine-tuned and absolutely professional. Strongly humorous and dramatic, the production does Shakespeare more than justice, showing his brilliance more than adequately. Dramashop's production of this hilarious comedy is not to be missed.