Reviews: Clearing Bombs, Much Ado About Nothing | Theater | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Reviews: Clearing Bombs, Much Ado About Nothing 

New theater productions feature smarts and slapstick

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Pioneer Theatre's Much Ado About Nothing
  • Pioneer Theatre's Much Ado About Nothing

Clearing Bombs
Hyperbole’s a tricky business, but: If there’s a more fascinating way to explain the clash between Keynesian and laissez-faire economic theories than playwright Eric Samuelsen employs for Clearing Bombs, please point me in its direction and I will be reading the hell out of it for the foreseeable future.

Samuelsen’s historical setup speculates on a real-life event: In the summer of 1942, economists John Maynard Keynes (Mark Fossen) and Friedrich Hayek (Jay Perry) spent a night on the roof of King’s College, serving duty to watch for German incendiary bombs. In this interpretation, they’re joined by a working-class fire marshal, Bowles (Kirt Bateman), who serves as the Everyman audience for his two erudite roof-mates’ competing philosophies: Hayek’s belief that governments should avoid interference in markets, and Keynes’ conviction that government stimulus and intervention are crucial to ease suffering.

Samuelsen—who also directed—grounds this esoteric debate firmly in his characters, terrifically performed by all three cast members. Fossen’s Keynes rails from his celebrated-elder-statesman
status, while Perry brings a bit more timidity to Hayek’s, and Bateman convincingly captures a simple man recognizing the parts of both men’s ideas that make sense. More intriguingly, Samuelsen expertly conveys the way that Keynes’ and Hayek’s philosophies about the world and human nature were forged by their experience.

Clearing Bombs allows the framework of its setting—the center of a genuine world crisis, one largely emerging from the economic crisis of pre-Nazi Germany—to shape an understanding of these two opposing conceptions of economic policy that still drive our national debate. Without stacking the deck, Samuelsen strips down and humanizes these often-abstract notions. It’s the most enthralling live-action economics textbook you’ll ever find.

Rose Wagner Center
138 W. 300 South, 801-355-2787
Through March 2, Thursday & Friday 8 p.m., Saturday 4 & 8 p.m., Sunday 2 p.m.

Much Ado About Nothing
Most people think about Shakespeare in terms of the Bard’s language; it becomes easy to consider productions as collections of famous quotes and  quips. Matt August’s direction of Much Ado About Nothing offers a reminder that they can provide just as rich a playground for slapstick.

The premise involves material that would easily find a home in one of Shakespeare’s tragedies, as the noble lord Claudio (Terrell Donnell Sledge) is deceived by Don John (Christopher DuVal)—the bastard brother of his patron, Don Pedro (David Manis)—into believing that his betrothed, Hero (Ashley Wickett), has been unfaithful. But the jealousy and accusations of harlotry are framed by the war of words between Claudio’s friend Benedick (T. Ryder Smith) and Hero’s cousin Beatrice (Rebecca Watson), both of whom insist that they will never find happiness in a marriage.

The juicy comedy emerges when Don Pedro, Claudio and Hero’s father, Leonato (John Ahlin) fool Benedick into believing that Beatrice loves him, while Hero and Ursula (Colleen Baum) attempt a similar deception with Beatrice about Benedick’s affections. The scenes are hilariously staged, with Smith skittering around the stage as Benedick attempts to remain hidden, and Ahlin magnificently exaggerating his report of Beatrice’s feelings. And Smith and Watson may be even better when tying their bodies into knots as Beatrice and Benedick try to convince themselves they’re not falling in love. Throw in the inept constable Dogberry (Max Robinson) and his “watch” composed of children, and this Much Ado feels as much like giddily choreographed silent-screen humor as it does highbrow thee-ay-tuh.

The comedy is so delightful, in fact, that Claudio’s bitter wedding-day accusations feel even more jarring. Much Ado gets much more serious than some of Shakespeare’s other comedies, which can put a damper on the spirited fun. The harsh words in this version are much more engaging when delivered with a wink and a touché.

Pioneer Memorial Theatre
300 S. 1400 East, 801-581-6961
Through March 8
7:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Fridays,
2 & 8 p.m. Saturdays

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