Carte Blanche and the art of juggling a satisfying production.
Somewhere around intermission last night, the full reality of seeing a third Shakespeare show in less than a month finally hit me. Looking back, it occurs to me that it’s actually pretty rare to have three different productions of three different Shakespeare plays open in Milwaukee the same month. Boulevard Theatre’s All’s Well That Ends Well, Off The Wall’s Macbeth and Carte Blanche’s Much Ado About Nothing all have overlapping runs. With some of the difficulties which had beset the Boulevard’s show opening weekend and Off The Wall’s over-rendered production design, it was nice to finally see a really well-balanced production with Carte Blanche last night.
The great thing about Shakespeare is that there are a great many elements to any script. And even a truly bad production (which I don’t think I’ve ever seen) would likely still have some elements about it that keep it from being a total disaster. The challenge for a really well-polished production is to make all of the elements work with relatively little dull, boring, poorly-executed dead weight. (With so many elements at play, invariably something is going to come across poorly.) Carte Blanche’s Much Ado does a really good job of meeting this challenge, effectively executing the best all-around staging of a Shakespeare play I’ve seen since the APT’s Comedy of Errors this past summer.
Directtor Jimmy Dragolovich does a really good job of putting together a show with few significant flaws. It may not be as ambitious in scope as Gutzman’s Macbeth at Off The Wall and it may not be a fearless Mark Bucher staging of one of Shakespeare’s least popular plays, but there’s something to be said for putting together a solid, entertaining production of a classic, popular romantic comedy. This is exactly what Cart Blanche manages with its latest production. The action is paced remarkably well. Nearly everyone in the cast works remarkably well together and nearly everyone here has an opportunity to make an individual impression.
The ensemble that Dragolovich is working with has remained relatively constant over the course of the past several Carte Blanche productions and the ensemble has really begun to develop a rapport that serves the play particularly well. Actors have settled comfortable into various types of roles and haven’t been typecast for long enough to get boring or tedious. Michael Keilly is as fun as Dogberry as he was I a similarly crazy comedic role in Carte Blanche’s The Producers. Michael Traynor plays Don Pedro with a charismatic poise that served as an interesting youthful edge to his performance as Max Bialystock in The Producers and the Emcee in Cabaret. The most pleasant surprise here was a brief bit of physical comedy between Liz Witford and Amber Smith. Witford’s got really good instincts for physical comedy and it was nice to see her have an opportunity to explore that a bit here . . . particularly with Smith, who puts in a typically impressive performance here as well . . . this time having an opportunity to play a more traditional romantic heroine as Hero. The group Dragolovich is working with here is quite young, which is kind of refreshing. If Dragolovich can maintain the bulk of this group for another coupl of years, it’ll be interesting to see how the theatre will progress in that time.
A review of Carte Blanche’s Much Ado About Nothing runs in this week’s Shepherd-Express.The show runs through March 7th.