Much Ado About Talk

much ado dance
Sarah Topham as Beatrice, Michael Hayden as Benedick, Morgan Taylor as Hero, Carlos Angel-Barajas as Claudio and the company of Much Ado About Nothing, by William Shakespeare, directed by Kathleen Marshall, runs August 12 – September 16, 2018 at The Old Globe. Photo by Jim Cox.

Three-time Tony Award winner and director Kathleen Marshall frolics through a post-war Italian Riviera playground at the Old Globe in Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare. She’s the perfect hostess from the masque ball to a wedding that almost happens, and a celebration with a company dance.

In a bathing suit and fiery, tight-curled hair, Beatrice (Sarah Topham) enters with a confident stride through the French doors with Hero (Morgan Taylor) through the other. The lovable, sassy Beatrice makes it clear to her uncle (Leonato as René Thornton Jr.) she is not interested in love. She and Benedick (Michael Hayden) have a charming chemistry that everyone notices but them. Benedick is older than she is, which makes sense, since he swears he will die a bachelor.

Scenic design, by John Lee Beatty, lends itself as a comedic hideaway and complementary surrounding. The pink villa casts a cheery and romantic glow on the actors. Benedick squirms from the greenery then crawls across the floor as Leonato lies to Don Pedro (Michael Boatman) and Claudio (Carlos Angel-Barajas) that Beatrice will kill herself if Benedick doesn’t return her love. Then Hero and Ursula (Larica Schnell) do the same and gossip of Benedick’s love for Beatrice. Beatrice stands in the statue niche then slinks behind the ladies to the fountain. She lies down as the girls lounge and twirl their hands below the waterline causing Beatrice to flatten herself on the step. When headstrong Beatrice and confirmed bachelor Benedick are properly set up, Benedick does a dance on the balcony in and out of the bedroom while Beatrice dances on the patio and through the French doors.

The men open the French doors and pause for the audience to take in the masks. There is a collective sigh as everyone gets a tickle out of the 1980s song “Puttin’ on the Ritz” by Taco, chosen by music director Abigail Grace Allwein. (Allwein also plays the violin with guitarist James Michael McHale.) The men do a smooth dance with a bend of the knees. Director Marshall has also won the Astaire Award—ergo all the dancing. From having fun with dog and pig masks, costume designer Michael Krass, celebrates the feminine with all the dresses. Beatrice’s red dress with spaghetti straps hugs her slim body then gradually flares out to her feet. Hero changes from her flowy pantsuit to a pleated pink-lavender dress to a damask and lace, cream wedding dress.

But Claudio and Hero’s wedding is interrupted as more lies are woven by jealous Don John (Manoel Felciano), the illegitimate brother of Don Pedro. Claudio has come home after the war with approval from Don Pedro. Don John conspires with his bad boys Borachio (Eric Weiman) and Conrade (Yadira Correa) dressed in black of course. When Borachio stands in the window with Margaret (Nora Carroll) groping her and calling out Hero’s name for Claudio to see, I can’t help but giggle even though it is mean spirited. The other tertiary character, gravel-voiced Conrade, channels Joan Jett as he smokes, drinks wine from a bottle, and spreads his legs when he sits. Conrad always has a pissed off face and with the same expression, as a prisoner, is forced to shake a gourd in the last song.

Much Ado About Nothing is a delightful romantic comedy. I’ve never enjoyed listening to a couple bicker more.

The Old Globe • Lowell Davies Festival Theatre • 1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego, CA, 92101 • August 12 – September 16, 2018 • (619) 234-5623

Sunny Pageant of the Masters

 

Pageant of the Masters Entry Wall
Under the Sun at Pageant of the Masters 2018 in Laguna Beach, California. Photo by M.C.

Through the years, Pageant of the Masters has focused on the masters like Cezanne, Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Michelangelo, Picasso, Raphael, Renoir, Vermeer, Leonardo da Vinci, and other artists around the world. But this year the theme is Under the Sun.

The Festival of Arts is celebrating 85 years and the Laguna Art Museum 100 years. Act One celebrates California and quite a bit of Laguna Beach’s art history.

The show opens with a Native American woman dancing near a fire atop a hill, depicting early life in Laguna Beach. The easy storytelling voice of Narrator Richard Doyle explains that a woman’s skull was found in Laguna Beach, dating back 17,000 years! Below, on stage, From the Beginning by bronze sculptor Jorge Fernandez depicts Native Americans sitting and standing on a rock. The first paintings begin with California’s mission era. Toll for Sunrise Mass, Pala Mission by J. Henry Sandham portrays a Native American pulling mission bells in San Antonio, Texas.

Mexican Cattle in Southern California by Artist William Hahn
Mexican Cattle in Southern California, by Artist William Hahn, Oil on Canvas, 1883

Back to California, picturesque paintings show the ranchos like Mexican Cattle Drivers in Southern California by William Hahn, and lithographs of orange crate labels are re-enacted. Both remind me of my ancestral history as my family worked the land and my Mexican grandmother packed oranges in similar crates in an Orange County packing plant.

Also, the artists’ colony and Festival of Art beginning are shown. Robert Kuntz was Laguna’s Renaissance Man known for his oil on canvas of beach scenes, numbers on signs, and freeway overpasses. The New Waves section aerials into the famous The Endless Summer lithograph by John Van Hamersvelf and The Laguna Beach Boys perform a Beach Boys song. Beach balls go flying!

Dejeuner sur LHerbe Claude Monet
Déjeuner sur L’Herbe by Artist Claude Monet, Oil on Canvas, 1865-66

The music is exceptional. I even get a good view of harpist Amy Wilkins before the barrier raises covering the orchestra pit. There are many harp parts in Act Two. Impressionist composer Claude Debussy’s Arabesque No. 1 floats through the air, but with keyboard not the harp. Arabesque is a beautiful piece for the harp with syncopation, but not easy. Claude Monet’s Déjeuner sur L’Herbe comes together. The yellow skirt is snapped in place by a stagehand. Rarely are so many paintings shown coming together. Usually, you only see one painting from behind the scenes.

Catching a Fish at the Beach Bischoff
Catching a Fish at the Beach by Artist Franz A. Bischoff, Oil on Canvas, c. 1920

 

No photography is allowed of these “living pictures,” but a video has surfaced on YouTube of Catching Fish at the Beach by Laguna Beach artist Franz A. Bischoff at the Under the Sun production. Maybe revealing the secretive demonstration to the media is a new thing. I won’t put in the link. Seeing the painting made before you go will dampen some of the magic.

At the end as tradition stands, Leonardo di Vinci’s The Last Supper comes together. The apostles step up to the table then Jesus is helped up the steps. The audience is quiet. The life-size painting turns around and the frame is set in place. From behind me, the wife moans, “Oh. Oh. Oh. My. Goaah.” She’s in shock at what she sees. Then the husband says, “Oh Shit.” The young couple have been sipping margaritas for the past ninety minutes.

Pageant of the Masters is the show to see for all ages. Many locals haven’t gone. You are missing out. The natural setting of chaparral-covered hills on a warm night under the setting sun is a great way to create memories with your family and friends.

Opening Night is busy but we find street parking in front of the Sawdust. We feed $6.50 in quarters that lasts about four hours, but the meter takes credit cards too. There is a $7 pay lot on Laguna Canyon where you can take the trolley for free.

Be there or be square!

Pageant of the Masters and Festival of Arts, 650 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, CA 92651. Pageant Tickets: 1-800-487-3378. Performances nightly, beginning at 8:30 p.m.: July 7-September 1, 2018.

Copyright 2018 Melissa Crismon