It should be said from the outset that this is not of one of The Master’s best plays or comedies. However, this is a suitably frivolous, raunch-realized play for our coarse-focused age and so an unexpectedly successful Edmonton winter diversion. As mentioned, expect lots of weaker, heavier-handed writing. Not surprisingly then, the production chooses an over-the-top approach for this low comedy farce, book-ended by a 36 month sex fast (by the men) and a 12 month fast (by the shrewder women).
Although there are some better-written scenes where the language is allowed to prevail more conventionally, this version relies heavily on its look, notably in the French women’s costumes, the black-light Shakespeare rap, and added music including sax take-offs on a couple of olde pop songs. Entertainment, all-out zaniness and unpredictability counterbalance the outdatedness of the language and weaker speeches from many minor characters, especially.
There are some strong performances though, notably by the likeable Berowne (Neil Kuefler), easily the actor most comfortable with Shakespeare’s words and tones. As Don Armado, Oscar Derkx is humorously stupid and chauvinistic. And Boyet (Braydon Dowler-Coltman) does a reasonable facsimile of many of Danny Kaye’s manic performances.
Live and recorded music is used effectively to ironicize character introductions, to provide mood background, and to conclude the show. Despite the overall liteness of the plot, Director Kevin Sutley still manages to highlight the main theme of hypocrisy in relationships, and fashions a strong second act and a satisfyingly boisterous finale to complete the show.
Despite its heavy modern tv-toned raunchiness and one gratuitous partial nudity scene, Studio Theatre’s production of a liter/lesser Shakespearean comedy is well-worth seeing simply for its campiness and actor enthusiasms.