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Shelburne-on-Avon

The current Shelburne Players production of Shakespeare's 'Much Ado about Nothing' is, in great part, due to judicious casting, because this is one of the best casts that a community theater has been able to put on the boards.

The words sang out, loudly-in the case of Seth Jarvis as Don John a bit too loudly all the time; clearly-clarity of diction on the parts of most of the actors; projection-most of the actors could be heard where I was sitting in the top row of the risers (I suggest to the director that she might consider sitting at the farthest distance from stage so that she could tell who was not being clear in his/her projection)-most but not all; musically -- Donald Rowe, Christina Weakland and David Harcourt were superb in their capturing of the musical cadences of the Shakespearean dialogue, and there were others almost at the standard set by these three actors.

The simplicity of the costuming and the set were perfect because the actors spoke the lines so well that we needed no distraction of color or pomp.

There were some marvelous performances. Donald Rowe was a wondrous Leonato, turning in a performance that ranks at the top of his achievements; Christina Weakland was a Beatrice willing to take physical chances that complemented her ineffable readings of her lines, filling them so well that even when initially articulated slightly unclearly, music still spilled out of them. David Harcourt was equally wonderful as Friar Francis and the Sexton. They were excellent performances out of most of the rest of the cast, the chiefest problem being that of proper projection.

There were, however, for this reviewer, some large holes in the performance, starting with a major disappointment with the actors playing the parts of Claudio and Benedick. Peter Hibbs was a cipher, and one hard to hear on top of it. He used grace and civility as though it required him to vanish entirely. Kevin Christopher as Benedick was much too casual both in his frame and his mode of walking as well as the unconcern that he displayed in his approach to the text.

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