Monday, January 16, 2006

Come, I will have thee; but, by this light, I take for pity

I know its not technically a book I "read" but it is literary.


A Chicago Shakespeare production.

A dear friend of mine got tickets from a subscriber friend of hers who couldn't make it to their picked date for Chicago Shakes' Much Ado. So of course I dropped everything to go with her.

The theatre space at Navy Pier is gorgeous. It is so simple in its lines; lots of wood; a shape that is reminiscent of the old Globe; every seat provides at a minimum a good view. Others, of course, offer great views. It is clear in the staging of the play, the Director takes the shape of the space and the layering of the seats into account. The actors are very aware of the space they have to play in and will often physically open themselves up to the upper levels of seating with gestures, faces tipped upwards, etc. Even in the top tier of seats, you feel included.

I forgot how much I loved this play. It has been too long since I have seen it or read it. The dialogue is so witty and the characters are marvelously created. It never ceases to amaze me that Shakespeare created women characters of such diversity in personality - not jut the demure, obedient, sweet childlike women that all were expected to be, but also characters that were full of pissnvinegar, wit, intelligence and more. Beatrice - the middle-aged witty bachelorette who is insistent upon never marrying - because she can never find her match - one to be her equal or who can handle her. She is very opinionated and not afraid to be so. Uppity Women Unite!! I love that when she does find love it is in a man who is truly her other self. We know that nobody but someone like Benedick could woo her successfully and with whom she could truly be happy. He will let her be herself - loves her spice and sass and independence. If Shakespeare could visualize this hundreds of years ago, why do we women today still settle? Hello!!

My favorite performer in yesterday's show was James Vincent Meredith, playing Don Pedro. He is strong, handsome with a melllifluous voice that resonates in your soul. Yet he played Don Pedro with such sweetness, heart and even vulnerability that it only made him the more attractive of all the characters. In the end, when he lingers back as the lovers dance, you truly ache for him.

My second favorite was definitely Benedick, played by the utterly delightful Jim Mezon. His spit (literally) and swagger only made him more pathetic when he lets down his guard and realizes he is in love. His manliness seeming more a front than something real. His bravado and vocal expressions were perfect. Although I will admit that I was a little unsure at first. Not sur eif he just found his energy or if it was deliberate, but his spark shone brighter the more we saw him.

Constable Dogberry was brought to charming, bumbling life by Scott Jaeck. His constant stumbling around like a drunk when we all knew this guy just simply didn't know how to put one foot in front of the other (or one word in front of the other) although his heart is in the right place and he tries sooooooo hard to be the best Master Constable there could be.

Kevin Gudahl's Leonato was to fall in love with. If only I could have had a father so caring, passionate and sensitive.

Beatrice, Kelli Fox, is a character so well drawn that it is hard to play her poorly. Kelli Fox was no exception. She was given every word in such a way that the words themselves practically are stage instructions on where to look, how loud or quiet to be. What made her stand out was her physical comedy. Fun, fun, fun. Great body language. That woman knows how every subtle movement impacts a character like Beatrice.

Minor player Alan Schmuckler was so ridiculously cute and attractive that it was hard not to drool when he was on stage with his guitar. Yummy!

The one person I didn't care for was Sean Fortunato as Don John. I know the guy is supposed to be a slimy villain but it seemed too forced and stilted. Line delivery was not consistent and while I knew he was a bad guy, I didn't *feel* like he was a bad guy. I really just didn't care for him at all.

Overall, I was so pleased with the show. I laughed my ass off, loudly and heartily. When it was over I felt so light, free and happy. I truly cannot complain about any of it. It was so much fun visually and aurally.

I love Shakespeare.

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