Review: ‘Much Ado about Nothing’ at Silver Spring Stage

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William Shakespeare’s great comedy, Much Ado about Nothing, is playing at Silver Spring Stage. The show is directed by Andrew Greenleaf and produced by Greenleaf and Katherine Offutt. One of the Bard’s best romantic comedies, it was written at a point when he had honed his craft so characters are not just caricatures but are multi-dimensional.

Photo by Harvey Levine.
Photo by Harvey Levine.

The play starts slowly as the cast of characters reveal their backgrounds, intentions, and lay the groundwork for the plot that will follow. It hits its stride when they manipulate each other for good and bad by allowing each other to eavesdrop or secretly view information. Naturally, those who are evil create bad situations and those who are pure of heart affect happier endings. Actually, the title of the play is a pun on eavesdropping. “Nothing” was pronounced the same way as “noting” in Elizabethan times.  As the director’s notes tell us in this day of the Internet, humans often see things with their own eyes that are false. It is our ability, or in this case, inability, to throw out things which don’t make sense and look for verification from other sources that can take us down perilous paths.

Andrew Greenleaf’s production treats the play not only as a comedy – but also emphasizes the moving moments – especially when Hero is defamed, when Claudio and Borachio repent their mistakes, and even when Beatrice asks Benedick to slay his friend Claudio.

The cast is believable as their characters change their beliefs in the course of a few days.

Perhaps, the best examples of this are the classic characters Beatrice and Benedick, who are wonderfully performed by Kristen Page-Kirby and Keith Cassidy. The actors are marvelous as they go from verbal sparring partners to lovers. Their counterpoints are Hero and Claudio, played by Kelly Shaughnessy and Alex Bassett, who both artfully play the fair maiden and her less than valiant suitor.

As with many of Shakespeare’s plays, it is the simple, plain folks who steal the show. The most classic, of course is Bottom, but Dogberry and Verges in this show had me laughing out loud many times with their malapropos and convoluted reasoning. Nick Sampson and David Gorsline play these men to perfection, stealing almost every scene in which they appear. Sampson captures the rhythm and timing of the dialogue (maybe due to the fact he is really British) milking every pun and joke.

Additionally, doing a standout job is Nello Deblasio as Borachio who changes from the conniving plotter to the penitent prisoner.

Bill Hurlbut (Don Pedro), Louis Pangaro (Leonato), Craig Miller (Antonio), Michael Sigler (in the dual roles of Balthasar – including some lute playing – and Father Francis), Lena Winter (Margaret), and John Decker as the evil Don John, contribute superb performances.

Photo by Harvey Levine.
Photo by Harvey Levine.

The realistic set by John Decker takes the viewer back to olden Spain, and I loved the fountain with real water in it. Even the stage floor is made to look like the large stones of a governor’s palace. The sound design by Nick Sampson not only contains very Elizabethan sounding music but also has birds in the garden. The costumes by the experienced Kat Beem are beautiful and notably Shakespearean as are the Hair Design and Make-Up by Sally Cusenza.

Whether you love Shakespeare or are just a neophyte of the bard, you must see Silver Spring Stage’s Much Ado About Nothing. It is well worth “noting.”

Running Time: Two hours and 35 minutes, with an intermission.

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Much Ado about Nothing plays through April 17, 2016 at Silver Spring Stage – 10145 Colesville Road, in Silver Spring, MD, in the Woodmoor Shopping Center. For tickets, purchase them online.

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