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Much Ado About Nothing

by Louise Adams
Wednesday Oct 16, 2013
Much Ado About Nothing

There were plenty of actor/disciples in the Whedonverse for director/adaptor Joss Whedon to pull together a well-cut, modern-dress "Much Ado About Nothing," shot with a minuscule un-"Avengers" budget over 12 days.

Whedon admirably organizes regular readings of Shakespeare's canon at producer Kai Cole's house, so the pair shot this mostly hand-held version of the comedy on the grounds and within the sizeable SoCal house, where the men bitch against or pine for love amidst a little girls' stuffed animals in the guest room.

There are no mothers in this black and white, noir-y world, only fathers and bachelors focused on their female targets. Messina's governor Leonato (the always engaging Clark Gregg) receives a princely entourage, including moon-eyed Claudio (youthful Fran Kranz) who falls for Leonato's daughter and sole heir Hero (Jillian Morgese, one of about half the actors whose flat, nasal American accents can't quite capture meter and heightened language).

Dogberry runs a "Law and Order: Barney Fife" constabulary and stumbles onto treachery via dumb luck and well-placed malapropisms.

But that's not the relationship we care about; it's the sensual hate/love fireworks, the "enraged affection" (2.3.94) between her cousin Beatrice (solid Amy Acker) and the Bard's proxy, a rhyme-challenged Benedick (cocky Alexis Denisof), who are all about dissembling disguise and appetites of "many strange dishes" (2.2.23). They are "horribly in love" (2.3.11-12), and she is "Lady Tongue ... a dish I love not" (2.1.244-5) as his "manhood is melted into curtsies ... and men are only turn'd into tongue" (4.1.316-18) too, famously culminating in her desire to avenge slandered Hero. Don John fabricates that the virgin "knows the heat of a luxurious bed" (4.1.40) so bad ass Beatrice will "eat [Claudio's] heart in the market-place" (4.1.303-4).

Dogberry (hilariously deadpan physical comedian Nathan Fillion) runs a "Law and Order: Barney Fife" constabulary and, along with dopey sidekick Verges and kindly clear-sighted Father Francis, stumbles onto Don John's treachery via dumb luck and well-placed malapropisms, such as "vigitant" for vigilant, "suffigance" for sufficient, and "dissembly" for assembly.

Featurette extras include "Much Ado About Making Nothing," "Bus Ado About Nothing" which recounts the cast's trip on Styx's old tour bus to the SXSW film festival, and a "Sigh No More" video of the music written by Joss and performed by brother Jed. These modern and meta touches, including a real-life photographer (platinum pixie cut-sporting Elsa Guillet-Chapuis) playing the Gov's photographer and meaningful earthquake references, make this 100-minute film, a pastiche of Shakespeare's familiar tricks like Juliet's "die to live" (4.1.253), easily digestible and quite filling, for "doth not the appetite alter?" (2.3.215).

"Much Ado About Nothing"

Louise Adams is a Chicago freelance writer at www.treefalls.com (and a nom de guerre).


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