Although the mere mention of Shakespeare often draws yawns from those who should know better, the current version of “Much Ado About Nothing” continues to attract enthusiastic audiences at The Secret Theatre in Long Island City.
Director Richard Mazda has snared talented performers, musicians and designers for his resident troupe, The Queens Players. At Friday evening’s performance, they delivered a very unique interpretation of the classic comedy. Mazda describes it as “echoes of the absurdist…with a style termed Trash Period.” This theatrical tactic utilizes “cardboard box dwellings and plastic bag wigs” with actors costumed in everyday disposable items (created by Beth Williams Garrett). The one-two theatrical punch is delivered with clever clown techniques (spearheaded by Alberto Bonilla). Tuneful riffs by musical director Jamey Grisham on his autoharp punctuate the evening.
The comedy itself involves deceptions, mix-ups, romance and jealousy. Physical humor and double entendres are plentiful. How many modern TV and movie plots owe their inspiration to this and other Shakespearean creations?
The troupe is a true ensemble with minor and major players complementing each other’s roles. The result is a delight to watch. Alberto Bonilla and Kate Siepert are outstanding as one of the amorous pairs. Connie Castanzo and John C. Nagy III play a more tumultuous twosome. All four are eminently believable as they succumb to ploys created by friend and foe.
The villainous and virtuous rub elbows with just the right amount of sparks. Don John (Blaine Smith), with his curled lip and relentless scowl, is the worst of the bad guys.
His henchmen include Andrew DeRado and Joseph Mitchell Parks. The good guys are led
by Don Pedro (Cliff Miller), elder noblemen Leonato (Ralph Petrarca), his brother Antonio (Marc Castle) and Sexton (Joshuah Laird). Lovely ladies in waiting include Sabina Friedman-Seitz and Cari McHugh. The bumbling night watch is led by Blake Merriman and Alexander Stine.
Personal favorites include C.L. Weatherstone as the Friar who emerges from the shadows after unabashedly biting his nails. He hatches a clever and complicated deception. Megan Greener, with slumped shoulders and an air of futility, wears her plastic bag costume and cap with the clearest absurdist intent. Bravo to one and all onstage and behind the scenes.
For information on this and future productions surf to www.secrettheatre.com or call (718) 392-0722. As always, save me a seat on the aisle.