By Michael “Buzz” Buzzelli, ‘Burgh Vivant
Huzzah! The war is over and Beatrice (Sarah Kwiatek) and Hero (Emily Peifer) learn that a phalanx of soldiers are returning to Messina to celebrate their victory in William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.”
Hero has her eye on Claudio (Adam Nie), but Beatrice can’t be bothered with the affairs of the heart. She does not wish to marry, but she does enjoy sharpening her wit and verbally sparring with Claudio’s friend, Benedick (Brenden Peifer).
The wooing commences and Hero and Claudio are quickly engaged. Both of them want to rush into the wedding right away. They’re so enamored of one another that the happy couple wants to spread the joy by getting Beatrice and Benedick hooked up.
Meanwhile, Don John seeks to make malignant mischief with his accomplices, Borachio (Joe McHugh) and Conrad (Robert Pell). Don John plans to thwart Claudio and Hero’s wedding by pulling a horrible stunt. Barachio goes to Hero’s window and romances Margaret (Madalyn Lenahan), Hero’s chambermaid. Don John convinces Claudio and Don Pedro (Jahir Christian) that Hero is unfaithful and entertains a man…even the night before the wedding.
Claudio falls for Don John’s evil plot and breaks it off with Hero at the wedding!
Spoilers: Dogberry (Meg McGill), Verges (Diane Brunke) and the night watchmen (Nico Bernstein and Zev Woskoff) overhear Borachio brag about his nefarious deed.
Things get even crazier, but all’s well that ends well. Whoops! Wrong play.
The problem with “Much Ado About Nothing” is that it has two distinct plotlines that don’t seem to mesh well. Shakespeare tells the A story and then the B story – instead of weaving the two storylines together.
Also, there’s a lot of dancing and singing that fills up the time. The Bard also teases us with a sword fight between Claudio and Benedick that never happens. Where was Anton Chekov when you need him?
Brenden Peifer, however, gets some terrific moments riffing with the audience. Peifer is exceptional as Benedick. He plays the role with the right amount of brazen vanity and boyish charm.
He is evenly matched with Kwiatek’s Beatrice. Beatrice and Benedick get some of the best lines in the play.
McGill is hilarious as Dogberry. She is delightful, especially when hearing her lament, “Oh, if only the sexton had recorded that I’m an ass!”
McHugh’s Borachio gets the best of her character every time and it’s a joy to watch him verbally catapult over her head.
Honorable mentions to Bernstein and Woskoff. While they don’t have very many lines, they have oodles of comic chemistry.
Scenic Designer Gianni Downs does a marvelous job with the multi-tiered Messina; a stately Italian villa with sun dappled waters off in the distance. It looked gorgeous at sunset and dawn – thanks to Lighting Designer Steven Yates.
Despite some terrific talent on a beautiful stage, “Much Ado” seems overly long. Director Victoria Rhoades could have tightened up the running time by trimming out some of the singing and dancing.
If nothing else, “Much Ado About Nothing” will certainly provide much needed laughs. And we always need more laughter.
“Much Ado About Nothing” runs till November 18, 2018 at the Charity Randall Theatre, 4301 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213. For more information, click here.