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

Copyright 2018 Melissa Crismon

Bewitched by The Tempest

Prospera and Ariel
Kate Burton as Prospera, Nora Carroll as Miranda, and Philippe Bowgen as Ariel in The Tempest, by William Shakespeare, runs June 17 – July 22, 2018 at The Old Globe. Photo by Jim Cox.

The Tempest 

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” Prospera breaks her staff then sets it on a movie theater seat before slipping away.

Director Joe Dowling’s vision of The Tempest at The Old Globe whirls dreams and reality together with spell caster Kate Burton as Prospera.

Flotsam and jetsam are strewn about in front of a two-story stucco building. Collaborating with Scenic Designer Alexander Dodge, the director imagines the sandy beach breaking through into a theater.

As all good stories do, The Tempest starts with action. Philippe Bowgen as Ariel reports he has safely shipwrecked the King of Naples, Antonio—the usurping Duke of Milan, and the crew. Prospera, Duchess of Milan, lives in exile with her daughter Miranda on a deserted island after being thrown out of power by Prospera’s brother. But no worries there are spirits to keep them company, Prospera’s books to work her dark magic, and of course young love thanks to the shipwreck.

A helm in the middle signifies the ship. The crew enters in simple black clothes and beanies. One turns a large funnel with paper to create wind, another shakes metal for thunder and another holds a drum for more affects. More crew enters with an off-white cloth—two of the cast are on the balcony and two below holding onto the corners and fighting the elements. Others pull ropes of the out-of-view sails.

Kate Burton plays Prospero, or in this case—Prospera the witch. She is the stern, but caring mother whose temper and magic collide. Maybe it’s the blonde hair and the chaotic past couple of years, but the way she throws her arms out and head back with her control freak nature one can’t help but hear the maniacal laughter of Hillary Clinton. She uses her sorcery for her daughter Miranda played by Nora Carroll to bring Ferdinand, son of the King of Naples, to the island.

Between news of a shipwreck—for colonizing efforts—reaching England in 1610 and Shakespeare’s reading of Sir Anthony Shirley’s journeys to Persia and Russia, he imagined a magical island. Perhaps colonization brings out the master and servant theme with Prospero and Ariel and Caliban, and the crew to the ship’s captain.

Ferdinand played by Sam Avishay falls head over heels for Miranda at first sight. He too is tested by Prospera and made a servant. Nora Carroll pities him and shockingly offers to be his wife. In their voluntary ‘service,’ true freedom is found in love.

Dark magic and mythology enhance David Israel Reynoso’s costume design. Prospera delights the young couple Miranda and Ferdinand with a trio of fallen angels singing a Supremes mash-up. Samantha Sutliff as Juno is an ancient Roman goddess, the protector and special counselor of the state. She is also the daughter of Saturn, the wife of Jupiter and the mother of Mars. The trio glide around in platforms and 1960s fitted dresses with a slit up the thigh, and a framed cube set off-kilter over their heads. Sutliff sings to Carroll like she is an angel, fairy godmother, or Frankie Avalon in the movie Grease, then ends with an exaggerated vocal run for a laugh.

An audience member mentions Aquaman at the sight of Ariel in his blue sequined unitard. They are on an island. Though Ariel controls air and fire. Caliban controls water and earth. If Ariel is a merman then Manoel Felciano’s Caliban looks like a sludgy water toad.

Alonso, the King of Naples, played by Robert Foxworth falls on his knees terrified by the devil. The red-horned beast with red-hot pokers up and down his arms is something out of Aeneas’ journey into the Underworld, who was influenced by the poet Dante. Above Kate Burton casts a spell in a red and purple sequined robe with a golden staff.

The Old Globe’s 2011 ethereal production of The Tempest was filled with dreamy pastels, a minimalist stage, and an Irish jig. The year is 2018 and we are woke from our sleep recalling a dark and whimsical dream that haunts and delights. This is what fairy tales are made on.

Azuki Sushi 

The balmy breeze stirs between the buildings as a line forms at the renowned Azuki Sushi. With a reservation, we are asked, “Upstairs or downstairs?” We follow the young hostess up the narrow stairs to a red-cushioned and warm-wood tabled patio that seemed like the VIP lounge we viewed from afar last time. The setting sun creeps through the slatted walls. The moistest rice and nori wraps tempt me all week. But some items aren’t available this time around. The menu seems to change and isn’t always fun for the cruelty-free eater.

The mackerel isn’t available the waitress tells Renaissance Man, but the Spanish mackerel is. On a small square plate, a skinned fish is curled up like the “fortune teller miracle fish” with the insides spilling out. Fortune says I’m feeling sad. The waitress says she can take the outer part away. She doesn’t seem comfortable either.

The Green sushi roll is gluten-free and vegan, but the asparagus is a bit too crunchy. The Shiitaki roll from last time was perfect, but is one of the items missing on the menu. There is savory miso soup with fresh shiitaki mushrooms. There are four different kinds of miso soup. The Cucumber and Avocado roll is perfect like last time. The root vegetable fries are tasty, but a bit greasy.

The menu is for a range of palates. Like The Tempest, Azuki Sushi is enchanting.

The Tempest by William Shakespeare directed by Joe Dowling runs June 17 – July 22, 2018 at the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre.

The Old Globe, 1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego, CA 92101. Box Office (619) 234-5623.

Copyright 2018 Melissa Crismon