Review of Kenny Leon’s Much Ado About Nothing

Keith Richter

July 27, 2021

I thoroughly enjoyed Kenny Leon’s Much Ado About Nothing, though it has been a while since I’ve seen any stage production, maybe I enjoyed it more since it’s been so long since seeing any stage productions. Nonetheless it was a fun viewing experience, the actors and actresses brought a wonderful playfulness to the story and held my full attention for the entirety of production. The modernization of the play was also a great touch, Benedick vaping and yelling “Kobe” as he leapt from hiding spot to hiding spot, barber shop talk, there were a handful of fun modernizations that added a level of complexity to the play. Another layer that was added to the play that shifted the perspective of the play was the cast, it was an all black casting. Along with the all black cast there were touches that were added that I think were to pay homage to the continent of Africa and the many different cultures and peoples that come from the 54 different countries of Africa. There is one sequence in particular that stands out to me, that is just before the first wedding of Hero and Claudio. The scene opens up with African drums playing and then three dances energetically burst out on to stage and begin to dance. The dance they preform looks as if it has taken inspiration from multiple different traditions and rituals and made one beautifully preformed dance in costumes that have a pattern on them that seem to also be inspired by African culture.

Another costume design choice that stood out to me was the costume of one of the dancers in the masquerade scene. One of the costumes worn by the dancers had long light fabric tassels hanging from her chest and back. Now this could be a bit of a stretch but this costume reminded me of the outfits worn by the Bobo people that live in Burkina Faso in Western Africa. While these people are most commonly known for their masks that are worn in rituals, the costumes they wear with the mask is what this dancer/actress’s costume reminds me of. With their masks the Bobo tribe will dress in these costumes that look like they’re composed of long tassel like material that hangs and swings as they dance much like the actress/dancer in Much Ado About Nothing.

These two costume choices and dance sequences I think and feel were Kenny Leon paying respect and homage to the Continent and the many different Countries that is home to all these different cultures and peoples. This also brings these cultures to the stage for more people to see and spark curiosity in those that may have never been exposed to this kind of cultural melting pot experience and may push them to explore and learn more about these cultures that Leon has brought to the stage. Kenny Leon’s Much Ado About Nothing was a wonderful rendition of Shakespeare’s work that brought a great mixture of modern culture and different African cultures to the stage to shift the play enough to shift the perspective of the viewer into a new but similar viewing experience.

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