Two couples nearly come apart at the seams for different reasons, the premise for Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, opening at American Stage. This version is set in Key West in the 1940s, the end of World War II. The comedy has traditionally been billed as a "battle of the sexes," a framing the theater is navigating its way around.
"The show really needs to highlight the disparities between the genders, but the when and where is not the most important thing," director Benjamin T. Ismail said. They chose a post-war setting for a "more patriarchal" period in the culture, Ismail said, the plot set in motion with the return of Navy sailors. Lots of gossip and backbiting deception follows, unfolding through a cast of 16 that includes two American Stage artistic directors (Lisa Powers as Antonia and Stephanie Gularte, current producing artistic director in her first acting role at American Stage, as Beatrice). Other cast members include Brock D. Vickers, Matt Acquard, Margee Sapowsky, Jim Sorensen, Juliana Davis and Richard B. Watson.
"Stephanie and I have worked together for 10 years," Ismail said. "I’ve never directed her before. You’re always nervous when you go into something like that, but it’s really been so magical to work with her and really the whole cast. There are some real powerful performances that creep up." Opens Friday and runs through Dec. 10 at the Raymond James Theatre, 163 Third St. N. $39 and up. (727)823-7529. For show times, visit americanstage.org.
Travis Wall, one of the most visible choreographers working today, has enjoyed awards and gigs at the highest levels directing dancers, most famously the reality show teams in So You Think You Can Dance. Those bits are typically over in 90 seconds. Now he brings his own troupe to the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts for a two-hour show. Travis Wall’s Shaping Sound: After the Curtain "really feels like it is a dance play," Wall told the Times. "We are dancing for two hours. There’s a lot of acting that goes on, and I truly feel that we all have become actors throughout this process of this show because we are telling a story without any text or any audio on top of it."
Among Wall’s career accolades is choreographing an Emmy-winning music video for Carrie Underwood’s Something in the Water. The striking conclusion, dancers lying down in water, came together at the end of a 10-hour shoot. "That was the last shot of the day," Wall said. "We’d shot in order of how wet we would get from top to bottom. The water was freezing cold. We were all like, ‘Oh god!’ And Carrie was pregnant at the time too, showing her baby bump."
In the water, Underwood broke from the convention of singers only lip-synching songs, Wall said. "She started to like softly, and in the smallest tone of voice, started singing over the track while we laid down. And all of a sudden the water just, like — all of our bodies released into the water, became warm, we weren’t freezing anymore, because we had been shivering when they called ‘action.’ There was something that happened when she started singing. We all just relaxed, and it was a kind of really cool moment." 8 p.m. tonight. Carol Morsani Hall, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. $39.75. (813) 229-7827. strazcenter.org.
Lab Theatre Project opens its third season with a play about three women with intertwined strengths and infirmities. 5300 Bluebird Lane, by Jennifer Potts, stars Caroline Jett, Roz Potenza and Samantha Parisi. The show centers on Maggie, who is caring for her mother, who has dementia, and the mother of her late husband, who is recovering from a hip replacement. Lab Theatre Project focuses on new plays, and will focus this season on getting older and the challenges and values that brings. Owen Robertson, the theater’s executive director, directs this show. Runs Thursday through Nov. 19 at Silver Meteor Gallery, 2213 E Sixth Ave., Ybor City. $15. (813) 586-4272. For show times, go to labtheaterproject.org.