Tonight, I will be going to see New York Shakespeare Exchange‘s production of Much Ado About Nothing.


I don’t know a ton about the company, but the production is certainly very slickly marketed and their mission of considering Shakespeare in contemporary culture seems fun.

This did seem like good time to dust off the last big thing I wrote about Much Ado About Nothing, an essay called “The Whole Assembly: Much Ado about Superheroes, Shakespeare, and Shawarma” that I contributed to a Pop Matters eBook called After the Avengers: From Joss Whedon’s Hottest, Newest Franchises to the Future of the Whedonverse.

Here is an excerpt, the full version of the essay is available in the book in the link above:

On the surface, there couldn’t be two more different movies than Marvel’s The Avengers and Much Ado About Nothing. One features movie stars in superhero costumes fighting space dragons at Grand Central Station in 3D; the other features lesser-known TV stars in sharp evening attire boozing and speaking Shakespearean dialogue at Whedon’s house in black and white. And yet there are some broad connections to be made with regards to the story and thematic content of the two films, which are reinforced by the bits that Whedon has invented or embellished.

Shot back to back and then edited back to back, these two movies haunt each other as if they were successive tenants in the sublet apartment of Whedon’s mind. Much Ado simply has to deal with where Avengers decided to put the refrigerator and Avengers knows that it will eventually need to re-spackle all those push-pin holes from its Blues Traveler poster before Much Ado moves in if it wants its security deposit back. And Whedon, as landlord to these two projects, surely had to do some minor renovations to his headspace so it could accommodate both. As a result, more than a few stylistic flourishes from the world of independent cinema sneak into the final cut of the big-budget Avengers. Likewise, Whedon’s adaptation of Much Ado – amazingly – becomes a kind of miniature version of Avengers, cribbing and straight-up copying a couple of the bigger movie’s core concepts about casting, as well as utilizing a few lessons learned about reimagining well-known characters. I have come to call this wide-angle appreciation of both movies “the whole assembly,” after an apropos throwaway line by the First Watchman in Act 4 Scene 2 of Much Ado.


New York Shakespeare Exchange‘s production of Much Ado About Nothing will play at Urban Stages through March 5.

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