A Comedy that isn’t Afraid to be Funny
By: Lorena Benitez
Comedies are an interesting thing in the theater world. So many of them are afraid to be classically funny and are more about making an artistic statement than entertaining an audience. As a viewer, this sometimes leaves me dissatisfied. Much Ado About Nothing rose above and entertained in a way most do not.
Then again, this is not surprising as the show was put on by the Hyperion Shakespeare company. The company is one of the great organizations of Harvard Theater, putting together a show every semester. This automatically means that the show had access to one of the best management staffs, best designers, and better funds than smaller shows.
Still, so much of the credit for this production goes to the incredible talent of the director, Allegra Caldera, someone new to Hyperion, but experienced with Shakespeare. This is Caldera’s third time directing an HRDC show and this is the best she has done so far. Shakespeare is tricky given its antiquated language, but her direction made it comprehendible and amusing through brilliant use of gestures and tone. The blocking was ridiculous in the most comical of ways with actors running, jumping, and climbing around the set at every scene. Sometimes the ridiculousness went a bit overboard, such as with the portrayal of Verges, but it kept the audience laughing. At one point I even shed a tear I was laughing so hard.
Of course Caldera’s amazing directing would be nothing without the great cast she selected. The entirety of the cast did their roles justice. In particular, Dogberry, played by Jacob Roberts, kept the audience laughing with surprising performances of vocal range and expression. Beatrice, performed by Kier Zimmerman, was well cast, and she eloquently pulled off all of her quick and witty remarks with ease. Ali Astin, who played Don Jon, did a stellar job of appearing evil, and Claudio, played by Nick Hornedo, gave a portrayal that was accurately sweet and comical. Props must also be given to Cecilia Languarda who performed while on crutches.
Besides being entertaining, the show was visually stunning. Trevor Mullin, the set designer, worked his magic once again and turned the Ag stage into a beautiful villa complete with a balcony, climbing vines, and a caramel brick façade. Alice Berenson, the lighting designer, emphasized the physical beauty of the stage and added to it by creating shadows in the window for cleverly placed scenes. The music was also well-timed and very fitting for each of the scenes in which it was played. Daniel Levine and Allegra cleverly worked in subtle music to enhance the comedic value, and it was not lost on the audience. The costumes were some of the best I have seen in an HRDC show. They perfectly captured the 1940’s style with chic dresses and crisp uniforms. Lots of attention was put into the small details with the inclusion of lace gloves and period appropriate hats on the women. Even the maids looked amazing! It is hard to make costumes look expensive for a show and Julia Thomas and Rachel Martin did the impossible. The makeup only enhanced the beauty of the show, taking the actors to the next level. Kat Zhou is usually a lighting designer, but she has proved herself as a makeup artist. The prop masters, Emily Zoffer and Nick Wood, rose to the challenge as well. Don Jon’s cigarette holder and Verges’ cane added so much to their characters.
If you have a chance, go see this show. You will not be disappointed!