I had a flashback to tenth grade—falling asleep in class during an endless, boring movie. I’ve had the flashback over and over again over the past couple weeks. Here’s the thing. I want to like Joseph Papp’s 1973 New York Shakespeare Festival production of Much Ado About Nothing. I really want to like it. I know I should like it. It keeps putting me to sleep.
It’s 2.5 hours long, and (yawn) I just never get through more than about 30 minutes in a sitting. I’ve watched it twice so far. Reader Tue says I need to watch it again after I read the text, so I’ll put that on my agenda (I’ll block a week for it). Just kidding. It’s not that bad. It does put me to sleep.
This production was originally done in Central Park and then moved to the Winter Garden Theater on Broadway before being filmed for television. Televising it was the kiss of death for the stage production. According to the Internet Shakespeare Editions website, the TV broadcast killed ticket sales and the Broadway show closed nine days later.
I like the actors. I think Sam Waterston does a nice job with Benedick and I like Kathleen Widdoes as Beatrice (she was nominated for a Tony for the stage role). It’s fun to see these two actors in their youth. But it’s also hard not to compare them to their present, 37-year-later TV selves (Waterston on Law & Order, Widdoes on As the World Turns).
This production is set in turn-of-the-century America, with soldiers returning from Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War. The sets are a bit hokey; I kept worrying that a shaky balcony might come tumbling down. The costumes are fine, although I find Leonardo’s (played by Mark Hammer) wig and false beard distracting.
I like this Dogberry (Barnard Hughes) better than the strange Michael Keaton version in the Kenneth Branagh production. Here, Dogberry and his watchmen are portrayed as the Keystone Kops, and it’s very slapstick and silly. He’s an ass. He’s an ass. Yes, he’s really an ass.
Yawn. It’s making me tired even writing about it. I want to like it, but this movie is just long and kind of cheesy and boring to me. There is a lot of loony fast-action running around with madcap music to match… sort of an Edwardian/Benny Hill thing going on. Odd!
Maybe it will all come together for me after I read the text. I guess I need to get reading!
By the way, I added a page Play by Play so you can easily find all my posts on a given play. I’m only on the third play, so it’s not unwieldy yet, but I thought this might help as I get further in.
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