Patrick Torres, the new artistic director of Raleigh Little Theatre, told us in the interview below that he wished to continue RLT‘s legacy. His inaugural show, William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, indicates adherence to his words. The complicated story of two couples — one pair a confirmed bachelor and a bachelorette discovering love, the other pair of confirmed lovers being driven apart by an evil prank, a faked death, and then everything working out happily at the end – is set this time during World War II, is cleverly staged and well performed. This show is part of the “Wherefore: Shakespeare in Raleighquot; collaboration of theater groups, and it continues the high standard for answering that question; because the Bard’s work can be as entertaining today as it was 400 years ago.
The bachelor, Benedick, who swears to his soldier comrades that we will never marry, is played by Lucius Robinson, whose impressive resume is lived up to with his hilarious delivery and comic physicality.
Katherine Barron, gracing the RLT stage for the first time, brings a sense of the comedic, a strong voice, easy movements, and clear articulation of the language to the role of Beatrice. She is the perfect antagonist for Benedick.
Having seen Beatrice’s cousin Hero — a woman whose name hearkens to the Greek myth about Hero and Leander, in which Hero took a vow of chastity to Aphrodite — Claudio, nicely done by Stephen Eckert, falls in love with her, and one reason is that she is pure. Then Don John, the bastard brother of Don Pedro, plots to discredit Hero’s virtue.
Nicholas Popio makes Don John a marvelously villainous fellow; and Hero, the daughter of Leonato (Jim O’Brien), the Governor who is hosting the boys returning from war, is well played by Sarah Beth Short.
The role of Dogberry, the self-important, but bumbling constable and Verges the Headborough are played with great humor by Doug Kapp and Fred Corlett, respectively.
Director Patrick Torres sprinkles this slapstick comedy with 1940s era music and dance routines that not only fit right in, but contribute a sense of currency to this old but still delightful play. And Torres certainly understands that everyone needs a little Nothing now and then. He has chosen to fill his stage with a set designed by Elizabeth Newton, a set that begins with the gate to the governor of Messina’s mansion filling one third of the closed curtain. When the curtain is raised, there is a three-tiered terrace, the top piece of which is rotated to create the distinction between indoors and outdoors.
The military khakis for the men, colorful summer fashions for the women, rich finery for Leonato, and taffeta uniforms for the house servants accenting the atmosphere of wealth and elegance were designed by Vicki Olson. Period incidental and dance music adds to the gaiety, courtesy of sound designer Todd Houseknecht. Lighting by Liz Grimes Droessler rounds out the ambience. The choreography, by Chasta Hamilton Calhoun, is upbeat and engaging.
We feel it necessary to suggest that RLT include the Artistic Director’s Notes in their programs. We like hearing from the person in charge, especially his thoughts about the presentation we are about to watch. We also wish they would include head shots of the actors. Especially in large casts, it is difficult to attach a name to a role without a face for guidance.
That said, this show is a lively experience, and a grand contribution to “Wherefore: Shakespeare in Raleigh.”
SECOND OPINION: Feb. 16th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/2015/02/16/4559863_theater-review-much-ado-about.html and Feb. 2nd preview by Sarah Barr: http://www.newsobserver.com/2015/02/02/4525150/arts-groups-band-together-for.html; Feb. 14th Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Spencer Powell: http://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=7261; Feb. 14th Raleigh, NC ArtsNow guest blog by Patrick Torres: http://artsnownc.com/2015/02/08/guest-blog-much-ado-nothing-raleigh-little-theatre/; and Feb. 11th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: here.
Raleigh Little Theatre presents MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING at 10 a.m. Feb. 18, 8 p.m. Feb. 19-21, 3 p.m. Feb. 22, 8 p.m. Feb. 16-28, and 3 p.m. March 1 in RLT‘s Cantey V. Sutton Theatre, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.
TICKETS: $22 ($18 students and seniors 62+).
BOX OFFICE: 919-821-3111, or https://raleighlittletheatre.secure.force.com/ticket/.
2014-15 SEASON: http://raleighlittletheatre.org/shows/14-15/index.html.
PRESENTER: http://www.raleighlittletheatre.org/, https://www.facebook.com/RaleighLittleTheatre, https://twitter.com/RLT1936, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raleigh_Little_Theatre, and http://www.youtube.com/user/raleighlittletheatre.
NOTE 1: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive-listening devices are available for all shows.
NOTE 2: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 22nd, performance.
Much Ado About Nothing (c. 1598-99 Elizabethan comedy): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Much_Ado_About_Nothing (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://shakespeare.mit.edu/much_ado/full.html (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).
Study Guide: http://www.bard.org/education/studyguides/muchado/aboutnothing.html (Utah Shakespeare Festival).
William Shakespeare (English playwright and poet, 1564-1616): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Shakespeare (Wikipedia).
Chasta Hamilton Calhoun (choreographer): https://www.facebook.com/chastahamiltoncalhoun (Facebook page).
Wherefore: Shakespeare in Raleigh: http://www.visitraleigh.com/wherefore/ (official website).
For Patrick Torres, his new job as artistic director of the Raleigh Little Theatre is the nexus of his paths in life: education and theater. He told us that over lunch one day last week, when RLT executive director Charles Phaneuf introduced him to us.
Torres likes to emphasize that he has the mind of an educator. “At the center of any play,” he said, “there is one question.” The action of the play may attempt to answer that question, or to shed new light on it, or otherwise examine, but it is always there. “In Hamlet …,” he said, by way of example, that question is the value of revenge. He suggests the flow of a play emulates a chemical explosion; you put different elements together and how they mix tells a story.
Patrick Torres hails from Austin, Texas, where he had ambitions of being a football coach, because of how it prepared young people for the realities of life. But somewhere along the way, he found art. Since then, teaching and drama have been his twin passions.
Torres has a remarkable resumé. He earned a BFA from Texas State University and an MFA in directing from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. He has been a directing fellow and teaching artist at Washington DC’s Shakespeare Theatre Company, associate artistic director of the Young Playwrights’ Theater in DC, program director at the Austin nonprofit Creative Action. That’s a pretty impressive resumé for a 37 year old.
Patrick Torres is warm, friendly, accessible, an easy going fellow, off-hand about his achievements; and he has an obvious personal drive. His has a ready wit, combined with a wry sense of humor. Among his heroes in the world of theater is Augusto Boal, founder of Theater of the Oppressed, a collection of theatrical methods of engaging the audience to help resolve issues of citizenship, culture and living oppressed.
We spoke of his season next year, which includes two popular musicals, a classic comedy, a Tennessee Williams and the regional premiere of “Stick Fly”, by Lydia Diamond, a dramatic comedy that explores an upper middle class black family dealing with sticky problems.
Torres’ first show at Raleigh’s oldest continuously running community theater will be William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, presented as part of the “ Wherefore: Shakespeare In Raleigh” festival, a collaboration of eight area theatres.
“I intend to preserve [the legacy of RLT] while simultaneously expanding our vision of theater, volunteerism, and engagement in contemporary society,” says Torres. “It is only fitting that a play written long ago by a revolutionary theater artist is my vehicle to introduce myself as the new artistic leader of Raleigh Little Theatre.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.