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July 20, 1979 - Image 7

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Michigan Daily, 1979-07-20

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The Michigan Daily-Friday, July 20, 1979-Page 7

What to do about 'Much

By JOSHUA PECK
From a half-invented lecture to
beginning students:
"Go through your script, weeks
before your actors first read through it,
and decide which scenes are going to be
carried mostly by physical attention,
and which by words, imagery or
thought. Keep that distinction clear
Much Ado About Nothing
William Shakespeare
Power Cener
July 13, 16. 22, and Augusta4,5
Leonato ..........Jon Hallquist
Beatrice. ... Janice Reid
Don Pedro .................... Richard Pickren
Benedick.................RhonnieWashington
Don John......................LorenDale Bass
Claudion ...Michael Morrissey
Antonio ...............Ter. y Cana
Hero .................. Terryl Wright Hallquist
Dogberry ...................... Leo McNamara
Verges.........................,..DavidManis
Richard Burgwin, direrto; Susan
Bender, lSchtin John Woodland,
sets: Nancy JoSmith,
cosiumes; Randy Neighbarger,
musical director. harpsichordisi.
from that point on, and only mix the two
rarely and with caution.'
The scheme hatched early in
Shakespeare's Much Ado About
Nothing to bring young Beatrice and
Benedick to a state of reciprocal love is
obviously one of words. When
Beatrice's cousin, Hero, goes out to the
field with her maids to discuss
Benedick's supposed affection for
Beatrice, the ensuing scene, with the
gossip's target surreptitiously listening
on, clearly relies on the spoken fun for
its comic effect."
WHY, THEN, does director Richard
Burgwin insist on adding distracting
and wholly unnecessary stage business
to the sequence? He has Hero sit down
stage left, before the vomitory, a
pasage under the audience, and dangle
a fishing line down into the passage

where Beatrice lies hidden. At one
point, the fishhook drags the girl out of
the vom, pulling her right up to the
stage level. The flurry of activity,
which Burgwin seemingly imagines to
be a clever metaphor for the concurrent
dialogue, only succeeds in drowning the
humor in overstatement, meanwhile
impeding the audience's attempts to
follow the rather complicated dialogue.
The fishing business is an illogical
embellishment, but then, illogic pops up
all evening, and at times seems verily
to be the whole production's concept.
Much Ado, like many of the Bard's
works, has two interwoven strands of
plot. In addition to the Beatrice-
Benedick intrigue, there is the sudden
rapture that springs up between
Claudio and Hero. As in Merchant of
Venice, the two plots call for substan-
tially different moods and manners.
How could one treat Shylock's bloodlust
with the fairy tale tenderness of that
plot's other half? How, indeed, can
Burgwin have Claudio's first stage en-
trance consist of a sprawling pratfall?
He does, though, and when Claudio
makes weighty accusations of his
lover's alleged impurity later on, we
are stunned. How can this blonde, ef-
feminate clown, heretofore treated
almost unremittingly as a farcical
figure, believably take part in scenes of
such relative gravity? He cannot.
GIVEN THE BUNGLED handling of
the Hero and Claudio love story, it is
surprising that Beatrice's entanglement
emerges as the stronger of the co-plots.
Janice Reid, so hopelessly alone in
trying to make the Repertory's Wed-
ding Band a success, has more
assistance-and assistants-here. Op-
posite the dynamic Rhonnie
Washington as the misognyous
Benedick, Reid holds her own ad-
mirably. More than Washington, she
seems at ease with the Bard's difficult
repartee, tossing off her banter with
self-assured smoothness and abundant
appeal.
Washington, never an actor to back
away from ostentation, has found the
nore et r,.. fnrcn,, kni, Whiles h

Benedick has his excesses.
Washington's characterization is
almost wholly appropriate and frequen-
tly breeds the atmosphere of all-out
merriment the part deserves.
While the chance of Reid and
Washington for their roles ends up
looking for a good one, it also raises yet
another instance of illogic on the direc-
tor's part. The two actors are
black-the only blacks on stage. In it-
self, their race is of no consequence, as
it has been a theatrical convention for
years to cast without regard to race.
But Burgwin seems on one hand to be
following that convention-Reid's
stage-uncle is a white man - and on the
other to be using race as some sort of
indication that the two characters are
meant for each other. The problem
would have been alleviated had there
been but one other black on stage.
THIS MUCH ADO'S chief mark of
witlessness, is the contrived placement
of the play in 1640, early in the baroque
period. So far as I can tell, the only fun-
ction of toying with the time setting was
to give an excuse to plant harpsichor-
dist Randy Neighbarger high on the
stage's only setpiece, there to remain
throughout the performance.
The production begins with a song
that Shakespeare placed much later in
the script. (Perhaps Burgwin thought it
rude to make the audience wait any
longer for a taste of Neighbarger's
decisively mediocre musical skills.)
From then on, the harpsichordist's
chief function is to play redundant ac-
companiment to bits of text that could,
and ought to have been to, speak for
themselves. When Reid speaks her
famous lines about "wooing, wedding,,
and repentance," the instrument is
heard punctuating each sentiment.
Reid, thank you, could have managed
on her own.
Most appalling, though, is the earnest
diminished 7th chord with which
Neighbarger accompanies each en-
trance of John, the villainous plotter
against Hero's and Claudio's hap-

Ado'?
piness. The production, upon each
sounding of the chord, seems to be
taking yet another anachronistic leap,
to the "melodrammers" of the 19th
Century. Does Burgwin honestly
believe that the play is so intrinsically
foolish that it calls for melodramatic
nonsense? If so, he ought to have
chosen another one.
Other difficulties, pale as they are in
comparison to the conceptual tom-
foolery, do show up. Michael Morrissey
simpers his way through the role of
Claudio, and Terryl Hallquist, who does
quite nicely in her other Repertory
roles, is a faceless, uninteresting Hero.
The arbor in which Benedict hears of
Beatrice's supposed liking for him
ought to have a suggestion, at least, of
lushness and greenerv. instead of being
barren and lifeless:
Leo McNamara's progress through
the evening as the constable Bogberry
is representative of the actor's lot in
general. Early on, he seems almost
scared to be as broad with his comic
gifts as he would like to. When at last he
pulls free, he is as amusing an illiterate
as one could hope for. Would that more
of his colleagues had been able to find
the key to their director's handcuffs.
RESIDENTIAL COLLEGE
SUMMER PLAYERS PRESENT
BERTOLT BRECHT'S
PAnd is Hired Mafn
A comedy
for the summer
Ther, Ju4l 194,~ Ju4l 21
N ;~ Ju4l 26-S4t, Ju4'r 28
E QuadAuditorium
Admission $3.00

oft - - OOMM - -0 - - - - . ---Nii

y FeDAV' It hbe4A A f kALJL~Iot
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Dw
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,

Beatrice (Janice Reid) and Hero (Terryl Haliquist) in Michigan Repertory's
production of "Much Ado About Nothing," playing at the PowerCenter.

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