Much Ado: Performance Retrospective


Written by Daniel T. Rodriguez. Posted here with permission from the author.

Got to go see Tashina Harris today in a local theater performance of Much Ado About Nothing. Snobbish expectations were a little dimmed for Shakespeare performed by community theater. Dimmed even more when we walked into the bright fluorescent lighting to see folding chairs set up on the cold linoleum of a community/senior center in suburban Virginia.

We were really only there, however, to see our friend try out her acting chops as Shakespeare’s Margaret – a relatively minor character to the play – so our presence was there mostly to be supportive and see a group of local thespians at least try their best with a play filled with antiquated puns and word play

That snobbery was very quickly shown to be obnoxiously misplaced. We were both legitimately blown away by the incredibly high caliber of the performances (for any theater, not just unpaid community theater). Where funds for exquisite costumes or for props of any kind (beyond a chair and a ficus) were lacking, the passion of the cast was on clear display.

But passion without talent might warrant only a participation trophy. I am not exaggerating when I say that this might have been one of my favorite performances of Shakespeare I’d ever seen. In a sense, the frugal production value forced these actors to really embrace these roles and play up the comedy of this play. (The audience was honestly laughing throughout – probably the highest praise and proof of the cast’s success).

At the intermission, Annelle and I discussed which were our favorite characters, and while Beatrice was probably our favorite (as it should be, really), every character – no matter how minor – vied for the top position in our discussion due to the clarity and talent of each performance.

Shakespeare can be hard to get through, yes – but often times that’s due to the quality of the acting. These actors are all so good that they’re able to not just communicate the meaning of some of the arcane language, but also the humor of it.

I’ve seen plenty of community theater. I’ve enjoyed almost all of it, but I wouldn’t actually recommend most of it to my friends. It might generally be fun, but I can see how some amateur elements of the production and performances just wouldn’t be for some people.

For this production of Much Ado About Nothing, however, I really do offer a full recommendation.

I would preface that recommendation with “for the price,” but that would seem to cheapen it and to warrant my mislaid snobbish expectations.

I also won’t preface it with “if you like Shakespeare,” because you really don’t have to “like Shakespeare” to appreciate this play. It’s a fun and clever play, but it’s really only good if the actors can sell the wit and cleverness of the English language as it existed centuries ago.

The only preface I’ll give to my recommendation is: If you enjoy fun things, don’t have an irrational fear of theater, and understand English, this play is worth your time and you should go see it.

That the price is low only serves to remove from you any excuse you might have to stay home. As for distance, we drove all the way out from DC to see it, so unless you don’t have a car, you really have no other excuses to fall back on if you live in the DC area.

Go have some fun. See a play. Support local theater.

Also, our original purpose in seeing it was more than validated – Tashina was great as Margaret.

Much to Note in “Much Ado”


Written by Jen Lofquist. Posted with the permission of the author.

“Much Ado About Nothing” supposedly is about Claudio and Hero, but we all go to watch it for the wit and barbs of Beatrice and Benedick. However, Britches and Hose’s production, directed by Arielle Seidman, highlights the full cast of the show and lets each character have their own time in the spotlight. It’s the strength of the entire cast that makes this play shine from beginning to end.

Much Ado opens in the town of Messina, where Leonato (played by the talented Daniel Rinehart) welcomes the prince, Don Pedro (Joshua McCreary), back from the wars, along with his companions Benedick (Dave Joria) and Claudio (Stephanie Ramsey), and the prince’s no good brother, Don John (Betsy Ryan). Claudio quickly falls for the lovely Hero (Brianna Lau), while Benedick openly spars with the quick-witted Beatrice (Megan Fraedrich) under the approving eye of her father, Antonia (Spencer Pilcher).

Rinehart’s Leonato is a fully drawn character. He is joyful at welcoming the prince, conniving at the marriage of his niece; he later displays anger and shame at his daughter’s fall, rage and revenge on her slander, and warm reconciliation when all comes right in the end. His emotions never strike a false note, even if he’s not the main focus of the production. McCreary is a warm prince who easily explains why he’s followed into battle simply on his charm. However, when he thinks Claudio has been wronged, the prince ably shows that edge of temper. Antonio is the perfect foil as the angry uncle itching for a fight—especially when his family is the victim.

Claudio and Hero are the perfect lovers, falling for each other easily when Claudio finally has time for it. It also doesn’t hurt that Hero is the heiress of everything around him. Ramsey plays Claudio with a sweet earnestness that makes Claudio’s turn at the first ill-fated wedding strike even harsher. Lau’s Hero is all light and laughter, making her fall painful to watch.

Meanwhile Joria and Fraedrich charm the paint from the walls and make the audience wish that each scene between the two could last just a wee bit longer. Joria’s affability shines while Fraedrich makes you wish Beatrice was your own “Get-a-Grip” friend and you could spend every weekend with her. Their chemistry is light-hearted and warm, so when the happy ending is found, you feel as comfy as reading a book by a fire. It just feels like it should be.

The plot is aided by the evil machinations of Don John and his henchman, Borachio (John Moss) and Conrade (Margaret Carson), who are oddly discovered by the lawman Dogberry (Gabriel Komisar), Verges (Bob Rosenberg), and their watchmen (Tom Barylski, Michael Angeloni, Edmund Sparrow, and Allie Vignoli). Komisar steals the stage with physical humor matching the wit of his lines, and Rosenberg is charming as his long suffering assistant. His watchmen are so fun to watch as they try to figure out how to follow Dogberry’s instructions that you don’t want them to leave the stage.

John Moss is well cast as the unethical, yet far too charming, Borachio, as he answers to Ryan’s dark and malicious Don John. Moss plays Borachio as a man used to getting out of trouble and ending up a winner, and it’s a fitting twist that the charismatic villain, Borachio, is brought down by the inept watchmen, Verges and Dogberry. Carsson plays Conrade as just caught up in the unfortunate moment and honestly annoyed that he’s even here. It’s really fun to watch.

The main cast is supported by Mandi Ellis, Tashina Harris, Connie Ramsey and Elizabeth Weiss as Ursula, Margaret, Friar Francis/Sexton, and Balthazar. Especially notable is the lovely voice of Weiss singing “Hey Nonny Nonny.” Ellis and Harris are able supporters to the cast, always entertaining and fully realized, never venturing in the cardboard cutout realm. Ramsey plays the friar and sexton back to back but so differently, you have to remind yourself that they are played by the same person.

The work on stage is expertly supported by the production team of Seidman, assistant director Leandra Lynn; stage manager Victoria Greek, technical director Dan Clark, music director Dave Joria, and media design/publicity Sarah Pfanz.

Overall, this is an entertaining production, fun from beginning to end, and when the final bow is made you almost wish you could ask the cast to do it all over again.

Impressions on “Much Ado About Nothing”


Written by Diana Dzikiewicz. Posted here with permission from the author.

While Shakespeare’s play may be titled “Much Ado About Nothing,” for the characters involved, the events are far from nothing. Through duplicity both humorous and grim, they fall in love, have their hearts broken, and eventually come together again. This play is one of Shakespeare’s most famous comedies, and the Britches and Hose Theatre Company gives a lively performance that stays true to the bard’s vision while delighting modern audiences.

The play revolves around two couples. Beatrice and Benedick begin the story as the objects of each other’s most emphatic scorn, which rapidly dissolves after their friends decide it would be funny to trick the two into falling in love. Claudio begins the play emphatically in love with Hero, a love which wavers when an evil prince decides to try some tricks of his own. In a play that focuses so much on deception, the final message is of the importance of being willing to tell the truth about our feelings, and to listen to truth when we hear it.

If you know the story of “Much Ado”, nothing in this play will surprise you. The director, Arielle Seidman, makes no attempt to make statements by setting the play in modern times or twisting out a new perspective on its plot. Instead, she has pursued and achieved a different goal: to create “Much Ado” done well. The play is filled with hilarious physical comedy, including everything from a character attempting to hide behind a much too small shrub to a re-enactment of offstage events that gives new significance to the line, “I tell this tale vilely.” As the play moves from pure comedy into drama, Seidman is careful to keep the grim moments balanced with levity, not detracting from the anguish but not letting the audience drown in it either.

The play is also true to its origins in length, with a run time just short of three hours and including a 15-minute intermission. The sets, costumes, lighting, and music are minimal. Instead, this is a performance that relies entirely on actors. Britches and Hoes has opted to double-cast the show; the following comments are regarding actors performing from March 17-19.

From the moment Beatrice steps on stage, all she can talk about is Benedick. Admittedly, everything she’s saying about him is negative, but Megan Fraedrich portrays her as taking such joy from speaking about him that it’s no surprise when she later falls in love with the object of her loudly proclaimed disdain. Brianna Lau makes for a sweet and innocent Hero, while Stephanie Ramsey is charming as the lovestruck Claudio. The most astonishing performance of the night came from Dave Joria as Benedick, speaking Shakespearean dialect as naturally as modern English. He is adept at expressing a range of emotions simultaneously, whether that’s the joy and embarrassment of falling in love as an avowed bachelor or the confusion, pain, and frustration that comes with watching his best friend’s wedding explode into scandal. The rest of the ensemble put in excellent performances that convince the audience that every character has their own inner lives. Tashina Harris manages to create a powerful moment for a very minor character simply through her expressions while watching Hero’s wedding dissolve. At another point in the play, nearly the full cast is onstage for a dance scene, and every character can be seen to be living out their own silent stories.

“Much Ado About Nothing” is a play that stretches from comedy to tragedy and ends in comedy again. Although the actors may pause to wince and shake their heads at some of Shakespeare’s more cringe-worthy lines, this is a performance that shows why his works have been acted out for centuries. Britches and Hose Theatre Company proves that “Much Ado About Nothing” can still leave audiences laughing at 400-year-old jokes and caught up in a story from long ago.

Much Ado About Nothing



Much Ado About Nothing opens in less than two weeks! Join us for Shakespeare’s classic romantic comedy of mistaken identity, nefarious plots, overreaction, and a whole lot of witty repartee, directed by Arielle Seidman and Leandra Lynn.

For this show, you can see not one, but TWO casts! The first cast will perform March 17-18 at 8:00 PM and March 19 at 4:00 PM. The second cast will perform March 26 at 4:00 PM.

Want to see BOTH casts? (Yes, you do!) Save your playbill from the first weekend and receive $5 off your ticket for the 26th!

All performances will take place at Green Acres Center, located at 4401 Sideburn Rd in Fairfax, VA. Tickets are available at the door for $15 general admission and $10 for students, seniors, and military personnel with ID.