Make note of nutty ‘Nothing’

By John Lyle Belden

The title “Much Ado About Nothing,” William Shakespeare’s comedy now produced by Indy’s Khaos Company Theatre, makes it sound like an Olde English version of “Seinfeld.” While its plot is as easy to follow as a sitcom, the title is more of a pun – “noting” in Shakespeare’s time was to overhear gossip, which happens here with “much ado” indeed. (Thanks, Wikipedia!)

In a modernish Italy that can only exist on stage, Leonato (James Mannan), owner of the estate where the play is set, will give his daughter Hero (Kyrsten Lyster) to Claudio (Ben Rockey), a soldier in the company of Don Pedro (Donovan Whitney), who has arranged the match.

Meanwhile, Hero’s cousin, Beatrice (Kayla Lee), has nothing nice to say about men and marriage – I checked, this was written after “Taming of the Shrew,” so consider her a more-refined “Kate” – and the main target of her venom is boisterous braggart Benedick (Daniel Dale Clymer). Sensing that these two would be suited for a different kind of sparks between them, Leonato, Pedro and Claudio, along with Hero and her companions Margaret (Kathleen Cox) and Ursula (Kaylee Spivey-Good), conspire to get them thinking each is loved by the other.

Also meanwhile, Don Pedro’s brother, Don John (James Crawley), our villain, sets out to ruin everything with the help of drunken Borachio (Jake Peacock). The main thing standing in their way is Dogberry (Linda Grant) – the Barney Fife of Shakespearean Italy – her lieutenant Verges (Nikki Sayer) and faithful Watchmen (Aidan and Addison Lucas).

And “mark that I am an ass” if I don’t mention other cast members Bradley Good, Case Jacobus and Steven C. Rose, as well as that felt Comrade on Peacock’s left arm.

The jokes and barbs hold up, even with the original text. Hero, being a teenager, does blurt out “hashtag” at moments of stress, and you get latter-day clothes with sword scabbards, but it all works. Crawley should be commended for the best evil grin this side of the Grinch, and Rockey is great at playing goofy and clumsy, yet lovable. Clymer is as sharp as the blade at his side, and Lee is simultaneously beautiful and a force to contend with.

Also, Grant and Sayer totally make the corset-and-riding-crop look work.

Under the direction of KCT’s Anthony Nathan, this classic romp is truly something to make “much ado” about. Remaining performances are Friday (pay-what-you-want night) and Saturday, July 21-22, at 1775 N. Sherman Drive. Get info and tickets at kctindy.com.

So much more than the sum of its parts

NOTE: As the Word/Eagle is in flux with the renaming and corresponding change in official website, John is putting his reviews here — for now.

By John Lyle Belden

The Khaos Company Theatre production of “Frankenstein,” adapted from the Mary Shelley novel by Indiana playwright Lot Turner, demands patience of the viewer.

It seems a bit wordy in the beginning, a flood of exposition as Victor Frankenstein (James Crawley) makes his confession to the sea captain (James McNulty) who has found him near the Arctic Circle. But the pace becomes more manageable as the story continues. Perhaps it was because I saw the play on opening night, but I saw Crawley get more comfortable in Victor’s skin as the evening wore on.

I was surprised to find that Sarah Johnson was in her first stage role as Justine, Frankenstein’s beautiful assistant – a petty thief who repays Victor’s kindness by plying her trade in graveyards. Johnson is natural and compelling in her complex role. There are no hunchbacks in this story; instead we get the tension between Justine’s genuine affection for Victor and his engagement to his bitter cousin Elizabeth (Linda Grant).

Jason Neuman is excellent as The Creature. His patchwork man speaks – and remembers, deepening the tragedy. Also notable is Bridget Isakson as Frankenstein’s mother, who never forgave Victor for surviving a childhood accident while her other son died.

The drama concludes with an interesting twist, a thought-provoking alternative ending to Shelley’s original fable.

I must also praise Johnson’s makeup effects and the KCT crew’s inventive creation of Victor’s laboratory machinery.

For the wary and budget-crunched, know that Friday, Oct. 28, is pay-what-you-want admission. Final curtain is Saturday, Oct. 29; performances are at the KCT stage, 3125 E. 10th St., Indianapolis. Info and tickets at kctindy.com.

John L. Belden is Associate Editor at The Eagle (formerly The Word), the central-Indiana based Midwest LGBTQ news source.