Joss Whedon makes us all look lazy. Instead of taking time off once filming ended on Avengers Assemble he invited his actor buddies to his house to shoot an indie, black and white adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing in 12 days. He even did the soundtrack.
Not perhaps as well known by mainstream audiences, Much Ado features some of the Bard’s hallmarks – love, deceit, an unfortunate misunderstanding and the odd fool thrown in. Its genius lies in the merry war of wits between implied former lovers Benedict and Beatrice, played with energy and intelligence by Amy Acker (Angel, Dollhouse) and Alexis Denisof (Angel, Buffy).
Both sink their teeth into their characters’ barbed words with pleasure, erring on the gentle side of slapstick. Acker is particularly wonderful, embodying the sharpness and vulnerability of Beatrice so astutely that you understand her reluctance to be hurt again.
The cast are plunked from every corner of the Whedonverse. Patriarch Leonato is played by Clark ‘Agent Phil’ Gregg, Firefly’s Sean Maher makes an excellent villainous Don John and honourable mention goes to Nathan Fillion and Tom Lenk as comic relief Dogberry and Verges respectively. Lenk’s Eighties cop show moustache is particularly outstanding.
Whedon often hosts Shakespeare readings for friends and colleagues and there’s an easy-going atmosphere that’s been captured by Much Ado About Nothing; performances are relaxed, natural and believable. Whedon has also taken words that aren’t his own and found new depths, the modern setting works beautifully and it’s a treat to see so many familiar faces brought together.