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Raleigh Ensemble Theatre's downtown Raleigh studio was sold out for a Sunday matinee of Bare Theatre's production of William Shakespeare's comedy Much Ado About Nothing. This witty comedy showcases some of the most popular devices in Shakespeare's bag of tricks: characters falling in love in spite of themselves, witty deception, and confounded love that all works out in the end. With the extensive character lists, numerous set changes, not to mention the unfamiliar language of Shakespearian works, taking one on with a little company like Bare Theatre is no small task. Director G. Todd Buker met the challenge with his respectable cast of twenty-three. Jason Bailey and Patrick Campbell solved the issue of multiple set changes - Shakespearian form typically includes five acts to a play - with the simple and perfect implementation of videography and projection. The projected and, at times, animated images changed with each change of location. The chorus of vaudevillian clowns that served as set changers shifted the few necessary hand props which were integrated superbly with the physical comedy of Jeff Aguiar and Olivia Griego as Benedick and Beatrice. The set changes and the Slumdog Millionaire-esque dance break at curtain call, while cleverly choreographed, did eat up additional minutes in what turned out to be a three hour performance. The additions were fun and quirky, but whether or not they were worth the time is up to the viewer.
Buker did well in his casting; Beatrice and Benedick were certainly stars on the scene. Audience members comprehended and thoroughly enjoyed Aguiar's Benedick. His understanding and spot on delivery of the text made him the most accessible character in the show. Griego gave Beatrice attractive wit and an independence that built the audience's anticipation for her next repartee with Benedick. While Ashley Lorenz and Jason Bailey depict the stereotypical love-at-first-sight relationship between Hero and Claudio, they serve as an appropriate contrast to the dynamic interactions between Beatrice and Benedick as they find their way into love.
Once again, Bare Theatre has found an interesting and engaging way to bring Shakespeare to Raleigh.
Catch Much Ado About Nothing for one more weekend, November 10-13. For details, see the sidebar.