Much Ado About Nothing
Seattle Shakespeare Company
Through June 24.
"Nothing" was Elizabethan slang for the female bits, and Much Ado About Nothing is supposed to be about women—better, smarter, more virtuous than their suitors. But, in this production, two dumb men are the most interesting characters. That's not good.
Beatrice and Benedick are the play's main attraction—unmarried wits who playfully insult their way into each other's hearts. Director Rita Giomi has interpreted Benedick as a fool: It is contrary to the spirit of the play but, however counterintuitively, serves as a tourniquet to this bleeding wound of a production. As written, Beatrice is energetically brilliant—more so than Benedick—but Stephanie Shine's delivery is too ponderous to do Beatrice justice. Her famed wit doesn't come out light and sharp, but clunking and slow—there is none of the zest and thrill to convince us that Benedick, the terminal bachelor, could fall in love with her. Giomi, accidentally or otherwise, has found the solution: play Benedick as a clumsy ass. The dense Benedick and the clunky Beatrice make a credible couple and the internal logic of the play is sustained, even if our attention is not. The characters can fall in love with each other, though we cannot fall in love with either. Paul Morgan Stetler is funny as the foolish Benedick and Todd Jefferson Moore wrings a few droplets of comedy out of Dogberry, a lesser clown who spews malapropisms like "comparisons are odorous." The rest of the production doesn't offer us dick. BRENDAN KILEY
The Last Sunday in June
ReAct at Theatre Off Jackson
Through July 2.
Don't spend your money on The Last Sunday in June, a poor production of a play that thinks it's smarter than it is. A collection of extremely broad types—a yuppie gay couple, a flamboyant jock, a black guy with HIV, a guy too old to get young guys anymore, and some assorted others—sit in an apartment on gay-pride day dishing and being catty and revealing surprises and feelings and the everyday minutiae of gay life, all while positing that these are exactly the things they would be talking about if they were all characters in a gay play. The surprises are of the unsurprising variety (did you know gay men sometimes cheat on each other?) and the feelings are of the Hallmark variety (greeting-card optimism, greeting-card regret) and the minutia literally involves Pottery Barn: "I wanted to go to Pottery Barn." "I'm sorry." "Me too. I'm sorry too." This is representative dialogue. Multiply it by two hours, add some zingers like "I'm so over the rainbow," and serve lukewarmly.
When it's Time for This Play to Say Something, a gay character we haven't seen yet, who's been tacked onto the second act to deliver some sort of controversy, walks in and delivers this: He's marrying a woman. This, again, is treated knowingly; the characters recognize that this is the part when it's Time for This Play to Say Something, and that's why this character is here. As for the audience, we already weren't convinced by anything happening on stage—now we're really not convinced. We didn't buy this tacked-on character in the first place. Then the woman he's marrying, Susan, a tack tacked onto a tack, comes out, and they all make a fuss over what it means for human beings to love one another or whatever. Meanwhile, I was inserting toothpicks between my eyelids. The woman playing Susan is the only actor in this show with presence. Her name is Angela DiMarco, and she deserves better company. CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE
Capitol Hill High, Episode 2: The Twin Has Spoken
Bad Actor Productions at Capitol Hill Arts Center
Through July 1.
"Here at Bad Actor Productions, we don't let things like age, body type, race, gender, or required talent stop us from playing roles we weren't born to play!" So crows the program for Capitol Hill High, BAP's flagship serial comedy, the second installment of which puts the troupe's trashy aesthetic on full display. Resolving (kinda) the cliffhanger of the first episode, Episode 2: The Twin Has Spoken continues Capitol Hill High's ramshackle parade of Pike/Pine-corridor-specific satire, teenage soap-opera spoofing, and enthusiastic crap, marked by aggressively terrible acting and shamelessly lame theatrics. Writer/director Dan Dembiczak clearly has a talent for rich one-liners, and he's prolific as shit. (Episode 3 lands on September 22.) But hopes that the serial format would naturally sharpen his skills are, as yet, unrealized. Neither the story nor the style of Episode 2 seems thought through beyond the next (typically lame) punch line, and in the end, the crap's overwhelmingly crappy.
The show's not without its own weird treats: The mono-monikered Adé floats through her ice-princess role like the ghost of a golden-era Warhol superstar, while BAP mainstay Craig Trolli shows again why he's the troupe's MVP. Attacking his role like a furious gay robot on Red Bull, Trolli brings a wit and purpose to the proceedings that's in seriously short supply elsewhere. If Bad Actor Productions could make such inspired stupidity their calling card, they could be onto something. For now, there's just room for improvement. DAVID SCHMADER