Monday, July 8, 2013

Much Ado About Nothing (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Much Ado About Nothing

Here is a new interpretation of Shakespeare for the Millennial set. Joss Whedon (The Avengers) has given us his own version of Much Ado About Nothing. Instead of doublets we see expensive Brooks Brothers type suits and heavy watches. Most everyone is at leisure with oneupmanship and sips champagne. These characters are at ease with superficiality and Ralph Lauren. Hardly anyone works.

Filmed in sumptuous black and white, Whedon emphasizes the sexuality and villainy of the original play, despite this being a comedy of errors, so to speak. There are some nefarious and formidable characters here. Many of them confront actual mirrors and become fractured in two---part Shakespeare, part "The Matrix" with a bit of noir thrown in for good measure. When these characters withdraw guns, the weapons are as threatening and alien as if fashioned by David Cronenberg.

As a villain, we have the square-jawed and black-suited Don John (Sean Maher) who, in keeping with the original story, is a malcontent who wants to foil the love plan between Claudio (Fran Kranz)  and Hero (Jillian Morgeze). We also have the egotistical Benedick (Alexis Denisof) and a selfish and self-righteous Beatrice (Amy Acker). Suffice to say, that Leonato (Clark Gregg) teases Benedick while Don John viciously sets up Claudio to think Hero a wanton and unfaithful commoner.

What seems a conceptual exercise of surface over content gradually builds in suspense and drama worthy of an Adrian Lyne thriller. The polished mirrors and steel frames that the characters are confined within become the hard shelled casings that contain their virulent and weaponized emotions. The spacey violence of Bret Easton Ellis would feel right at home.

In Shakespeare, words are supernatural wizardry. As the poison jokes unfold, the toxin tongues of the few become little more than clown's confetti by play's end. Hats off to Joss Whedon for revealing some dark magic behind Shakespeare's motley ruse.

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