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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Much Ado About Nothing

Also see Susan's review of Adding Machine

A Christmas Carol
Howard W. Overshown and
Rachel Leslie

Director Timothy Douglas has brought a Caribbean breeze to the stage of the Folger Theatre in Washington with his robust multicultural production of Much Ado About Nothing. However, while the performances entertain and the comedy shines, some of the stage business is overly busy.

Douglas has set William Shakespeare's witty comedy not in the islands, but in an ethnic enclave of Washington in the days before the annual Caribbean Carnival. People of all ages and races mingle in a city alley bordered with balconies, fire escapes and the back entrance to Messinah's, the shop run by Leonato (Doug Brown) with the help of his daughter Hero (Lexi Victorian) and his niece Beatrice (Rachel Leslie). The men in their lives, Benedick (Howard W. Overshown) and Claudio (Alexis Camins), are D.C. policemen rather than soldiers as in the original.

Many of the updates and tweaks fit beautifully. The masquerade ball that brings the lovers together sparkles with Helen Q. Huang's elaborate carnival masks and costumes; the Caribbean accents are melodic and sweet; and the music of Shakespeare's words receives another assist from a character called "Brother" (Craig Wallace), the neighborhood's disc jockey, providing a soundtrack for all moods and, most delightfully, a hip-hop rendition of lyrics from the original play.

Overshown is a charming presence as Benedick, sure of himself yet never taking himself too seriously, and Leslie matches him with passion and intensity. (Occasionally they mug a little too much, but that passes.) Victorian is touching, especially in the darker second half of the play. And fireplug-shaped Dogberry (Alex Perez) and tall, gawky Verges (Matt MacNelly), the goofy guards who stumble on a plot to destroy the planned marriage of Hero and Claudio, steal the play whenever they appear.

Tony Cisek's scenic design and Dan Covey's lighting design offer the beauty and rough edges of a crowded urban neighborhood where Leonato grills ribs, people gossip and share confidences, and a tragedy leads to an impromptu memorial set on a chain-link fence—not to mention an illuminated "palm tree" to add to the tropical mood.

Folger Theatre
Much Ado About Nothing
October 21st November 29th
By William Shakespeare
Borachio: Dionne Audain
Leonato: Doug Brown
Claudio: Alexis Camins
Friar Francis: Billy Finn
Ursula: Aakhu TuahNera Freeman
Beatrice: Rachel Leslie
Verges: Matt MacNelly
Don Pedro: Tony Nam
Benedick: Howard W. Overshown
Dogberry: Alex Perez
Margaret: Fatima Quander
Don John: Joel David Santner
Hero: Roxi Victorian
Brother: Craig Wallace
Directed by Timothy Douglas
201 E. Capitol St., S.E.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-544-7077 or www.folger.edu


Photo: Carol Pratt/Folger Theatre


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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