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Shakespeare in Milwaukee With ‘Macbeth,’ ‘Much Ado About Nothing’

Theater Preview

Feb. 17, 2010
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Shakespeare’s pairing of the reluctant Benedick and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing is one of the classiest romances in stage history. The romantic comedy makes an appearance on an intimate local stage this week as Carte Blanche Studios presents its version of the classic tale through March 7.

The production design is traditional Elizabethan, featuring designer Kate Vannoy’s elaborate, sumptuous costuming. The production also makes use of handcrafted masks by artist Peter Smith. The set will be minimal within this small studio space, so the visual aspect of the production will largely focus on the actors’ poise and presence.

The cast consists of Carte Blanche regulars, including director Jimmy Dragolovich in the role of villain Don John. Carte Blanche has a solid track record with its regular actors, so the dynamic interplay between the members of this ensemble should be fun to watch. Actress/dancer Samantha Paige, who has performed interesting work with Carte Blanche in the past, has framed 16th-century dances to add to the atmosphere of the show.

This is the fledgling theater company’s second Shakespeare staging, following last June’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Much Ado About Nothing runs Feb. 19 through March 7 at Carte Blanche Studios, 1024 S. Fifth St.

Dale Gutzman’s Off the Wall Theatre also opens an intimate production of Shakespeare this weekend as it welcomes audiences to a staging of Macbeth (at least three performances have sold out as of this writing). Off the Wall’s space, located across the street from the Pabst Theater, is already quite small, but director Gutzman is amplifying the intimacy of the production by limiting the number of seats. By doing so, he hopes to maximize the visceral impact of the performance. It’s a risky decision, given such an epic Shakespearean tragedy. If any aspect of the play comes across as less than authentic, the whole performance could suffer. With Off the Wall’s Jeremy Welter in the title role, however, the center of the action should be quite riveting.

Macbeth runs Feb. 18 through March 7 at Off the Wall Theatre, 127 E. Wells St.


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