A rip-roaring French farce set in Tex-Mex carnival-land, complete with saguaro cacti, the requisite number of doors, a sombrero- and a serape-clad serenading guitarist.

April 3, 2018 18:41
2 minute read.

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING at the Cameri Theater . (photo credit: GERARD ALON)

By William Shakespeare
Translated by Dori Parnes
Directed by Udi Ben-Moshe
Cameri Theater, Tel Aviv March 5

Udi Ben-Moshe’s Much Ado about Nothing is a rip-roaring French farce set in Tex-Mex carnival-land, complete with saguaro cacti, the requisite number of doors, a sombrero- and serape-clad serenading guitarist, a riot of color – the glorious set is by Lily Ben-Nachshon – and a sublimely moronic set of mishmar ezrachi (civil defense) volunteers led by the inimitable Motti Katz as their linguistically (and everything else) challenged commander. Its only connection to Shakespeare is the text, impeccably and wittily rendered as usual by Dori Parnes.

We all know the story. Beatrice (Anat Waxman) and Benedick (Yuval Segal) shoot spiked verbal one-liners at each other every time they meet, proof of their mutual detestation, until they are tricked into admitting their mutual love. Claudio (Avishay Meridor), Benedick’s friend and fellow officer, is set to marry Hero (Netta Plotnik), daughter to Leonato (Ohad Shahar), whose hand he has obtained through the good graces of his commanding officer, Don Pedro (Oded Leopold).

But Don Pedro has a bastard brother who hates them both, Don John (a gravel- voiced Dudu Niv). His Machiavellian plot tricks Claudio and Don Pedro into thinking that Hero is a shameless strumpet, so that Claudio denounces her before the world – and this scene is rendered with exquisite sensitivity – at what should have been their wedding. Consternation! What now? But this is a comedy, so the requisite Happy Ending has the audience applauding wildly – as the production deserves.

Boris Malkovski’s atmospheric music mutters along in the background until it bangs out, fortissimo, at all the important moments, like in the silent movies. Oren Dar’s drab colors for Beatrice and Hero (contrast to the rest maybe?) are odd, but the rest of his costumes are apt to set and mood.

The “straight men” here are ingenues Hero and Claudio, with Plotnik and Meridor winsomely youthful and innocent in the roles. Our hearts go out to them. Oded Leopold’s Don Pedro is sturdily noble, a man instinctively to be believed. Oded Shahar genially plays Leonato as a sort of absent-minded and indulgent professor, so that when he hits the roof at Hero’s supposed immorality, it’s startling. A character actor to the core, Dudu Niv never misses a nuance, and his weaselly Don John is deliciously, unrepentantly malicious.

Motti Katz’ unabashed, unmoved and un-everything-else Commander fills the stage every time he’s on it. He struts and stomps and swaggers as self importantly as a Trump, his every superbly nonsensical utterance received as divine word by his credulous and no less funny cohorts Rubi Moskovitch, Adam Sheffer and Ezra Dagan.

Hero’s gentlewoman Margaret is enthusiastically rendered by Maya Landsman.

Benedick, as played by Yuval Segal, is a buffoon, and he keeps putting his tongue out, like a frog catching a fly. As Beatrice, Anat Waxman rings true only when she comes to Hero’s defense, her meetings with Benedick otherwise have a “been there, done that” quality so that the exchange of insults between them tends to sag rather than dart. True, Shakespeare’s Beatrice and Benedick are young and Ben-Moshe’s (one has to think deliberately) are not, yet both Waxman and Segal are accomplished actors; sufficiently so to have ignited in another way the verbal and other fireworks that pass between them. Would they had done so.

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