omplete QPORIT: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING AT TFANA

Monday, February 18, 2013

 

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING AT TFANA


THEATRE FOR A NEW AUDIENCE (TFANA)

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

Directed by Arin Arbus

Arin Arbus has created a delightful, funny (sometimes hilarious!) very clear and enjoyable production of Shakespeare's MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, starring Jonathan Cake as Benedick and Maggie Siff as Beatrice. 

Jonathan Cake as Benedick and Maggie Siff as Beatrice
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
Photo by Gerry Goodstein


Maggie, and most of the cast (with the notable exception of Jonathan Cake), form almost a repertory company at TFANA, playing roles in many plays. (I recently saw Maggie Siff at TFANA in THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, a play with some kinship to MUCH ADO.)

The action takes place on a simple but attractive plain wooden slab -- with a large swing.

While the audience enters, an accordionist plays and women are folding the wash. It gives a nice sense of place (without being specific to any location, tho' as described by Shakespeare it's quite specifically "Messina"). It's kind of placeless. There is no particularly obvious time period for the setting either (certainly the accordion is not an Elizabethan period instrument), nor do the costumes spell out a date -- it's kind of timeless.

While being specific in the moment-to-moment details, perhaps the staging -- as timeless and placeless -- is intended in part as a metaphor of the "Nothing" in the title.


Note: The wikipedia article on MUCH ADO makes much ado of connections between "nothing" and "noting" - meaning gossip, rumor and overhearing - which were homonyms for Shakespeare, and of a pun on "no thing" slang for  a woman's vagina (which is not a penis), and on "notes" as in musical notes or letters or observations. A quick check of the script also reveals lots of different uses of the word "nothing" in the script, and a gazillion uses of "not." (Shakespeare loves using the same word over and over -- in both plays and poems.) One of the famous exchanges in the play is:

BENEDICK

I do love nothing in the world so well as you: is
not that strange?

BEATRICE

As strange as the thing I know not. It were as
possible for me to say I loved nothing so well as
you: but believe me not; and yet I lie not; I
confess nothing, nor I deny nothing. I am sorry for my cousin.

BENEDICK

By my sword, Beatrice, thou lovest me.


The production uses original musical settings to Shakespeare's songs. 

I believe, though, that more could be made of the meaning of these songs. The lyrics are sharp in reference to the action of the play. They are more than just throw-away moments of music.:

Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,
Men were deceivers ever,
One foot in sea and one on shore,
To one thing constant never:

Then sigh not so, but let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into Hey nonny, nonny.

Sing no more ditties, sing no moe,
Of dumps so dull and heavy;
The fraud of men was ever so,
Since summer first was leafy:

Then sigh not so, & c.

ALSO...

Pardon, goddess of the night,
Those that slew thy virgin knight;

For the which, with songs of woe,
Round about her tomb they go

Midnight, assist our moan;
Help us to sigh and groan,

Heavily, heavily:
Graves, yawn and yield your dead,
Till death be uttered,
Heavily, heavily.



In addition to using music and song, the words of the play are broken up with moments of dancing. And the swing on the stage, simple though it may be, works wonderfully.

What makes this Arin Arbus production so terrific, is twofold. First: By slowing down some of the "witty" dialog -- which is incomprehensible in many other productions, by adding facial expressions and body language, and by getting the "comic timing" just right, she has been able to make the "wit" witty and the jokes funny.

Secondly, she has structured the play and directed the actors so that the strange contrast between the merriment of the first part of the play, and the serious deceptions and betrayals of the second part are jolting but still credible.

It's an excellent and very enjoyable production!



By the way, in a bold move, TFANA, which has never had a real home of its own, has just been building a new theater in Brooklyn across the street from BAM. It will be inaugurated next season with a new production of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM directed by Julie Taymor.




THEATRE FOR A NEW AUDIENCE (TFANA)
http://www.tfana.org/

WIKIPEDIA - ON MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Much_Ado_About_Nothing

A COPY OF THE TEXT OF THE PLAY
http://shakespeare.mit.edu/much_ado/full.html

QPORIT - ON THE TFANA PRODUCTION OF THE TAMING OF THE SHREW
http://qporit.blogspot.com/2012/04/taming-of-shrew.html




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