Much Ado About Nothing at Rasaka Theatre Company: Theater review
Rasaka Theatre Company puts a Bollywood spin on Shakespeare's Much Ado.
Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, which centers on contrivances and heightened, mercurial reversals of affection even as it announces its happy ending right in its title, makes a decent match for Bollywood-style high-broadcast emotions and dance breaks in the South Asian–focused Rasaka Theatre Company's conceptual approach. Director Lavina Jadhwani and her design team bring some clever ideas to the table. When Don Pedro and his men arrive in Messina at the top of the play, for instance, their costumes suggest they're returned not from battle but from a match: Benedick, Claudio and the boys are outifitted in soccer unis, with the prince as coach.
The dance numbers, choreographed by Kareem Khubchandani, Priya Narayan and Alka Nayyar, are entertainingly executed, even if the women of the cast demonstrate a bit more precision than the men. Yet it's the men who tend to dominate in the non-dance scenes: Scot West's fratty Benedick and Owais Ahmed's puppy-dog Claudio both make strong impressions, while Arya Daire's Beatrice and Anu Bhatt's Hero remain enigmatic.
Part of that's in the writing—the Bard doesn't give any actor playing the much-abused Hero much to go on—but it could also be in the cutting. Jadhwani's edit of the script seems to do away with much of Benedick and Beatrice's delightful sparring, putting a greater focus on the less interesting courtship between Claudio and Hero. West and Daire hardly feel like they're onstage together long enough to establish their chemistry or lack thereof.