Friday, July 18, 2014

Review Shakespeare Outdoors in Southern California Much Ado About Nothing


by Benny Balazs
Lifestyle Writer

Much Ado about Nothing
At Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum 
July 12 through September 28, 2014

All images in post provided by Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum

When I first was given the opportunity to attend press night for a live Southern California performance of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing I was ecstatic. I'd had some experience working with the drama department while in high school, so I have some idea of what’s needed for a good live theater production. 

The Venue - Perfect Setting for Shakespeare on Stage

Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum outdoor theater is located in the tiny remote wooded town of Topanga Canyon about 40 minutes by car from Los Angeles. But don't let the distance deter you, because the drive to the venue is picturesque and even more well worth it once you arrive. Topanga itself is a storied place, long regarded as a hang out for local artists and musicians. In fact, it is in this area not far from the theater where Neil Young, one of the world's greatest rock and roll singer-songwriters, recorded his 1970 album After the Gold Rush.

Image from Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum
As you enter the estate-like grounds where the theater is located, the first thing you'll notice is how rustic and organic the place looks. All the buildings are wooden on the outside, and meld perfectly with the surrounding forest. The staff was lively and warm, welcoming me with bits of humor and wide smiles, which made it that much easier for me to feel cozy there. I also noticed that some of the staff working the ticket office and snack stands appeared later in the show.

Image from Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum

The best part of this whole experience was seeing the stage itself which is like none other that I have ever seen. The bulk of the stage is fitted for outdoor scenarios, and is full of space. It spans around the sides of the audience with perches and balconies. In the background of the stage is a stone path that winds through the grass, creating a natural place for character entrances. 

A large tree protrudes from the middle of the stage, and looms over the audience, giving an incredibly organic and immersive feel. As the description entails, it requires little effort to totally get lost within the play on stage, since the scenery around you exudes natural beauty, as well as realistic depiction.

There aren’t too many seats in the theater space, which I prefer since it creates a more comfortable atmosphere that doesn’t overwhelm you. Better yet, every seat in the house guarantee’s a great view of the stage! The viewers ranged in age from kids to senior citizens, indicating a truly multi-generational appeal, with the venue suitable to families, couples, and singles alike. 

Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum continues its celebration of the Bard's 450th birthday with another new summer production. The performance itself, which is part of the theatrical company's All-Shakespeare Repertory Season, was simply spectacular. 

Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing is a battle of the sexes, in which several noblemen have potential spouses in their sights, who prove hard to get. In the process of finding true love, the main characters endure well-executed wit, bountiful hilarity, and solemn heartbreak all wrapped in the eloquent language scripted by Shakespeare. 

As great as the story is, it’s the actors that make the play, and make it they did. The characters were played by performers that seamlessly brought their roles to life. Brimming with energy and emotion, each member of the cast drove the narrative with a momentum that made it impossible not to smile throughout.

Overall, Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum’s Much Ado about Nothing was incredibly satisfying, leaving me feeling warm and delighted by the time the show ended. I can’t wait to come here again and see future productions in this beautiful and comfortable venue. Of course, kudos to founder Will Geer, who built the space as a safe haven for blacklisted actors such as himself back in the 1950s to help them pursue their love for the stage.

About the Theater
Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum is located at 1419 North Topanga Canyon Boulevard in Topanga Canyon. For a complete schedule of performances and to purchase tickets call 310-455-3723 or visit Theatricum.comYou can also stay up to date on everything about this theater by following them on Facebook and Twitter.

About the Author
Californian Benny Balazs comes from a Hungarian family on both sides and describes himself as a writer by day and a singer by night. A newly-minted graduate, he received his high school's top music award, was a member of an a cappella group, editor in chief of a student literary magazine and originated/wrote a newspaper column as well a school play.  Following his passion for performing and literary arts, he hopes to join an a cappella group soon and aspires to write a book.

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FTC Disclosure: MommyBlogExpert received tickets to attend the press night performance facilitating this review post. No other compensation or payment was associated with this post. See complete FTC Disclosure information that appears at the bottom of MommyBlogExpert's main page and at the bottom of every individual post on this blog, including this one.

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