GPW: Self-Tempered Anarchy since 2009

Your GPW Editor-on-Occasion is Petra Fried in the City.
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stories along The Way

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Venue-fication of the Old Zoo increases

Once a testament to archaic and cruel animal captivity, the Old Zoo area of Griffith Park is nowadays a very popular picnic area with a unique ambiance... for those of you who can ignore the ghosts that seem to haunt some of the remaining cages, that is. Spooks us, but we digress.

Occasionally happy picnicers are displaced when someone decides to use the Old Zoo as a venue. It now appears that Rec and Parks is stepping up use of the site as a venue with the installment of the Vesper Theatre's production of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, running through October 11th.  So now we have Symphony in the park and Shakespeare in the park at the Old Zoo.  We're not complaining exactly, but are wondering how far this venue-fication of the Old Zoo will go.

Here's the LA Times review of the production which looks pretty good. We're wondering if the photo credited to Chris Collins is the same Chris Collins who has finally and thankfully been permanently banned from the Wilson Harding Golf Course for illegal, abusive, and extremely disruptive behavior. Probably a coincidence.

Theater review: 'Much Ado About Nothing' at Old L.A. Zoo
Much Ado Cast 3The resourceful folks at the newly formed Vesper Theater Company could have second careers as location scouts.  The most captivating aspect of “Much Ado About Nothing,” the group’s first outdoor Shakespeare production, intended as a yearly event, is the locale – just outside the abandoned bear caves at the old L.A. Zoo in Griffith Park. Aptly and wittily dubbed “Shakespeare on the Rocks”  -- a reference to the cascading man-made boulders that surround the caves – this initial offering, directed by Tim Landfield, is rough-edged but nonetheless charming, a propitious launch that bodes well for future endeavors.

Of course, Shakespeare’s dark comedy about a young Italian gentlewoman falsely accused of fornication at her own wedding is most famous for the delightfully acid repartee between the bride’s sharp-witted kinswoman, Beatrice (appealingly feisty Courtnie Sauls), and her equally caustic admirer, Benedick (authoritative Corey MacIntosh), who circle around each another like angry cranes in a mating ritual. As is the problem with many local Shakespearean productions, certain actors are somewhat overwhelmed by the language, which suffers from occasional mush-mouthiness.  However, there are excellent performances to be found, particularly Patrick Blakely’s suave Don Pedro, a well-meaning nobleman misled by his scheming bastard brother, Don John (effectively brooding John Dimitri) and Ben Stranahan’s Leonato, an outraged father whose emotions, upon hearing his daughter decried as a “stale,” run the gamut from confusion to dismay to righteous wrath.  --F. Kathleen Foley

Much Ado About Nothing,” Old L.A. Zoo on Griffith Park Drive.  3:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.  Ends Oct. 11.  Suggested donation $10.  (323) 207-6365.  Running time:  2 hours, 20 minutes.  Photo: Corey MacIntosh, left, and Courtnie Sauls in "Much Ado About Nothing." Credit: Chris Collins