Aquila Theatre Company's popular new Off-Broadway staging of Much Ado About Nothing, staged in a directorial conceit of Cold-War spy games, "The Avengers" and James Bond, will extend and move beyond its current digs at 45 Bleecker to the Manhattan Ensemble Theater.
The 45 Bleecker run ends Sept. 16 and Aquila artistic director Peter Meineck told Playbill On-Line he's targeting Sept. 26 as the start date at MET. A multiweek run prior to the start of the resident Manhattan Ensemble season, at 55 Mercer Street in Soho, is expected.
Meineck also said Aquila's next classical-rooted staging will be the Aristophanes comedy, Clouds, which begins forming in rehearsals this fall, toward a February 2002 New York City debut.
Aquila, the cross-cultural troupe that uses British and American talent, has already added Tuesday night performances to its summer schedule of the critically-embraced Much Ado About Nothing, set in a 1960s London of spy games, patent-leather jumpsuits and Beau Brummel duds. Performances of the cheeky, physical Robert Richmond staging of the Shakespeare comedy began June 28 at 45 Bleecker Street in Manhattan. The Tuesday shows are to meet demand for warm reviews for the action-packed version of the romantic classic. In Richmond's concept, borrowing stylistically from the world of TV's "The Avengers" and James Bond movies, the war that precedes the action of the play is the Cold War. Spy games and funny freeze-frame fight sequences are seen as prologue. With some characters cut or blended for the eight-actor staging, the text remains largely intact. The performance runs two hours.
Beatrice and Hero wear platinum and lavendar wigs (respectively) and patent-leather jumpsuits, and Benedick and Claudio don four-button black suits and bowler hats. Beau Brummel designed the costumes.
Much Ado opened July 12. The Tuesday shows were added Aug. 14. Performances continue to Sept. 16. Composer musical director Anthony Cochrane created an evocative '60's soundtrack that includes a stylish version of "Sigh No More, Ladies."
In addition to serving as musical director, Cochrane stars in Much Adoas Benedick. Also featured in the cast of eight are Lisa Carter (Beatrice), Louis Butelli (Don John/Dogberry/Friar), Shirleyann Kaladjian (Hero), Alex Webb (Leonato), Nathan Flower (Claudio/Verges), Richard Willis (Don Pedro/Borachio) and Cameron Blair (Margaret).
Production design is by Richmond and Peter Meineck. Meineck is also the company's producing artistic director and Much Ado's lighting designer.
Costumer Beau Brummel has been involved in men's fashion retailing for over four decades. Recently, the designer outfitted Regis Philbin for ABC's "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire."
The Aquila Theatre Company was founded by Peter Meineck in 1991. The company toured nationally until November 1999, when they arrived in New York and established themselves as the first British/American Equity-approved Off-Broadway company. Recent productions include The Iliad: Book One, King Lear and Cyrano de Bergerac.
45 Bleecker Theatre is located at the corner of Bleecker and Lafayette Streets in Manhattan. Performances are Tuesday Friday at 8 PM, Saturday at 5 & 9 PM and Sunday at 3 & 7 PM. Tickets are $30-$40. For ticket information, call (212) 529-4530 or contact Aquila at (212) 992-9642. Visit the website at www.aquilatheatre.com.
— By Kenneth Jones
and Esther Sapan